Is new technology creating new challenges for fire detection in rail?
Paul van Trigt, CEO of Aero-X AG, the master distributor of Stat-X aerosol fire suppression in Europe, explains how new technologies are creating new challenges for fire detection in the rail sector and how Aero-X intends to meet these issues.
In what ways are new technologies guiding the development of fire detection and extinguishing solutions for the rail sector?
Increased global environmental awareness is driving the use of new materials and energy technologies to make rolling stock even more environmentally friendly than it already is. These new innovative technologies incorporate a lot of different challenges and will also guide the development of new fire detection and extinguishing solutions.
Increased global environmental awareness is driving the use of new materials and energy technologies to make rolling stock even more environmentally friendly than it already is.
Currently, the two major developments of new energy technologies to drive trains are battery powered and hydrogen powered trains and locomotives. Both technologies mean a big challenge for rolling stock and rail infrastructure because the integration of both is still in a pre-mature phase. Experiences are currently being gained with prototype trains at various locations.
The fire detection and extinguishing concepts for battery powered and hydrogen powered trains are based on the experience in other application markets using these technologies, combined with the currently valid rail compliance standards. The experience gained during the prototype phase will lead to adaptions of the fire safety concepts for these applications, the rail compliance standards in general as well as the fire protections standards concerning the rail infrastructure.
Aero-X is on top of these developments following its pace accurately to be able to serve its customers with the latest state-of-the-art optimum fire detection and suppression solutions.
What are the main challenges of these new technologies for the sector?
Battery powered trains need big high-capacity battery storage systems. The risks of battery fires and the difficulties to extinguish these fires are well known and continuously investigated. The battery storage systems being installed on rolling stock must be charged very frequently. Besides that, these battery storage systems are facing a tough physical environment with temperature fluctuations and high impact caused by shocks and vibrations. Battery fires, caused by mechanical impact, overloading and/or overheating, are difficult to extinguish and it is important to detect such fire events in an early phase. Often, the overheating of one battery cell can lead to a thermal runaway of the whole module or even the whole battery pack. Extensive testing has shown that the Stat-X aerosol fire extinguishing technology is an adequate measure to suppress battery fires. So far, the biggest experience has been gained in the automotive industry, as well as with numerous big stationary battery storage systems currently being installed or in operation as part of electric grids to temporarily store the excess of electricity from the renewable energy sources like photovoltaic and wind turbines. Aero-X protects numerous big battery storage sites around the globe.
Extensive testing has shown that the Stat-X aerosol fire extinguishing technology is an adequate measure to suppress battery fires.
Hydrogen in general is highly explosive. The use of hydrogen as an energy source to drive trains asks for stringent technical, as well as process, requirements. The equipment used on rolling stock and in the rail infrastructure to store and process the hydrogen must fulfil extremely high standards to prevent leakages. In this case, the detection of leakages and critical hydrogen concentrations is of utmost importance. The Stat-X aerosol fire suppression technology offers an optimum solution for these applications.
In both the battery powered and the hydrogen powered applications the right combination of detection and suppression technology forms the optimum solution. This is where Aero-X has its key competence offering tailored, effective, robust, and extremely reliable fire suppression solutions for rail applications.
What does Aero-X aim to achieve for the rail sector over the coming five years?
Since its founding 15 years ago, Aero-X has been growing steadily. The experiences gained in the different application markets have been continuously integrated in the development process and implemented in Aero-X’s products, system solutions and services. This has led to lots of new products and solutions based on market and application needs for the customers of Aero-X.
Aero-X is already now a leading supplier of fire suppression solutions to the rail and related industry. With new product and solutions developments, Aero-X wants to maintain and enhance this position.
This year, Aero-X is moving to a new facility which will have a bigger, well organised production area, where products and solutions can be produced simultaneously. Various new machines will enable the Aero-X production team to produce higher volumes at a repetitively high-quality standard. A bigger warehouse area with vastly increased storage capacity will make sure that Aero-X’s customers can also in the future rely on fast delivery.
Aero-X is already now a leading supplier of fire suppression solutions to the rail and related industry. With new product and solutions developments, Aero-X wants to maintain and enhance this position. Besides that, Aero-X will stay on the pace of future developments in the rail infrastructure and rolling stock market to be able to offer the best and, from a price performance point of view, optimum solutions to Aero-X’s customers. The new, bigger facility will help contribute to the increasing volumes, which are, and will be, needed to keep the leading role of Aero-X in the rail sector.