A Brief Introduction to Combustible Dust Explosion

In the previous post, I have posted about Chemical Safety Board report on explosion at Imperial Sugar Company, USA. Combustible dust sugar was related to that accident. Then, what does a dust explosion mean actually? According to wikipedia, a dust explosion is the combustion of a particle(s) of dust suspended in the air in an enclosed location, resulting in overpressure, thermal radiation, and ensuing projectiles.

From the basic point of view, a fire can only exist whenever an oxidant (oxygen), a combustible material and a source of ignition come together. The three components are famously called by the fire triangle. Meanwhile, in the case of dust explosion, it requires not only the fire triangle components but also combustible dust material must be in an enclosed space or confined space and suspended in the air at the certain concentration. 

Minimum concentration of the combustible dust material that is capable to explode is Lower Explosion Limit (LEL). LEL value can be found in MSDS. Each combustible solid material will have different LEL value.

There are many types of combustible solid materials by which a dust explosion may occur, for instance flour, sugar, fertilizer, rubber, paper, pulp, wood, coal, aluminum, plastics and organic materials.

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