Recent Applications and Experiences of the FIRE Panel Protection Device Used in Motorsports and Related Transportation 2004-01-3550
This paper discloses the recent results and experiences of use of the FIRE Panel fire safety device in motorsports, including NASCAR, and other related transportation. The device comprises a thin shell of a special polymer, which is filled with a powder fire extinguishant. It is mounted on or near a flammable fluid reservoir, such as a fuel tank or fuel cell, in a “peel and stick” application. When the vehicle is impacted severely near the reservoir, the FIRE panel is designed to shatter, with the energy of the impact discharging the powder as a plume surrounding the ruptured reservoir, preventing the leaking flammable fluid from igniting. It is an improved derivative of a similar device used to protect military aircraft fuel tanks from combat damage-induced fires. It was previously deployed on some SCCA Trans Am racing vehicles to protect their fuel cells from fire, successfully withstanding the rigors of competition. In 2003 it debuted in competition in NASCAR Nextel Cup racing, after having been evaluated by the NASCAR R&D Center (with additional teams and series planned for the 2005 season). Thousands of these devices have been sold to protect Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors from their potential for fire after rear end impact. It has recently been successfully demonstrated in a new series of rocket sled crash tests, using actual ignition sources as a means of better assuring the potential for fire. It is also being evaluated by the U.S. Army as a means to protect military vehicles deployed overseas. It is an excellent example of a product benefiting from technology transfer and refinement between the military, motorsports and other transportation industries. The paper and presentation will discuss the results of the last year of its performance and extent of use, new test data, and new applications being considered.