Advances in Fire Protection for Critical Vehicle Components 2002-01-3325
Fires are a common occurrence in various forms of transportation, including motorsports, and will continue to be so as long as combustible fuels or materials are employed. Fires result in hundreds of deaths, and thousands of injuries, on American highways each year, yet minimal resources are applied to better understand the threat, improve fire safe designs, or employ effective technology to mitigate the impact of this threat. The motorsports community has typically been a leader in developing and employing advancements in vehicle safety, including fire protection, and it frequently interacts, influences and mutually benefits from military safety and survivability technology breakthroughs. One such example is the development and refinement of reticulated foam for vehicle fuel cells, with joint contributions from both communities. A new such technology is now emerging, with a heritage of military vehicle development and successful usage in combat, with new enhancements to make it affordable and suitable for civilian vehicle use, particularly in motorsports. This technology is employed as a device commonly known as a “powder panel”, which comprises a thin, hollow breakable panel (typically plastic) that is filled with dry chemical fire extinguishant, sealed and mounted on the exterior of fuel cell outer walls. This device has been successfully used to protect military aircraft from fires due to bullets penetrating their fuel tanks, and a new version has been successfully deployed in motorsports to protect fuel cells from rupture in severe collisions. Many new motorsports and other transportation applications are now being explored for the device.