Principles, Testing and In-Field Experience for the FIRE Panel Fuel Tank Protection Device 2005-01-1790
A technology has been devised and recently deployed in highway vehicle transportation to protect vehicle fuel tanks from impact-induced fires. The technology is currently employed in the FIRE Panel product, which exhibits an improved design based upon powder panel technology used for decades to protect military aircraft from ballistic-induced fuel tank-fed fires. The device comprises a shallow shell, filled with a powder fire extinguishing agent, which is mounted on or near a fuel tank or other flammable fluid reservoir. In the event of an impact to the fuel tank or reservoir, such as due to a collision, which might rupture the tank and spill fuel to be ignited, the adjacent FIRE Panel also impacted shatters as designed, discharging a plume of extinguishing powder to inert the space around the leaking fuel tank or other reservoir, even if the vehicle travels some distance after impact. The simplicity and low cost of the device make it practical for most transportation applications. The science of inerting fuel vapor/air spaces with previously released dry chemical, and the notably low concentrations required for the application, as demonstrated by the Bureau of Mines in addition to military evaluations, will also be discussed. The pedigree of full-scale crash tests, using rocket sled facilities and actual gasoline and live ignition sources to provide a significant threat of fire, will be addressed. The various in-field applications of the device will also be discussed, including motorsports use in the Trans Am racing series, and most recently NASCAR, as used in actual competition. Military transportation applications now being evaluated for the product, including Tactical Wheeled Vehicle fuel tank protection, and their resultant test data will also be discussed. Highway vehicle applications, including its deployment by the thousands on Crown Victoria police cars, and real-world activations while in service will be reviewed.