Fire is a chemical reaction that requires three things to sustain itself – fuel, heat, and oxygen. Oxygen is one of the fundamental components required for combustion (fire) to occur. Too much O2 (rich environment) or too little O2 (lean environment) oxygen, and fire/combustion will not occur or sustain itself.
The pioneers of ‘thin air’ fire prevention systems can safely prevent unwanted fire from occurring or propagating all together within a controlled environment by breaking down the well-known ‘fire triangle’ by adding nitrogen to the space, thus reducing the concentration of oxygen in the controlled environment.
Depending on the combustibility of the fuels and the temperatures being maintained, life sustaining oxygen can be calibrated and maintained below its normal pressurized 21% oxygen by volume (Vol.-%) at sea level to lower percentages by volume, each having an equivalent molecule concentration, corresponding to various higher elevations.
This controlled environment fire prevention concept is basically just another form of air conditioning. Systems are not designed to make the air cooler. They are designed to make the air thinner (reducing oxygen) and in doing so, fire is prevented from starting or spreading. ‘Thin air’ fire protection systems are quite different from all other forms of fire protection as it is proactive and constantly maintained to prevent the chemical reaction of ‘fire’ to occur at all.
Other fire protection systems such as fire sprinklers or gaseous agent systems are reactive in nature. However, what both forms of fire protection have in common, is their basic function of interrupting one or more of the three essential elements (fuel, heat and oxygen) of the chemical reaction known as fire.
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