Applying Fundamental Scientific Principles in the Fire Industry

The fire industry uses scientific principles to enable its very existence. However, fire engineering designs are often based on formulas that technicians have no way of verifying as accurate. Fire engineers do not always understand the physical properties of the clean agents or fire suppression agent that they use. For example, Novec(tm) 1230 Fire Protection Fluid, a clean agent fire extinguishant, is an organic compound which deteriorates quickly to a point of non-effectiveness if poorly handled and stored.

The value of the assets that fire extinguishing systems protect is increasing rapidly, whilst market pressures lead to the delivery of ever-cheaper systems. Too often fire protection is seen as a cost rather than an investment.

These problems, and many more, may be solved in the fire industry by the application of fundamental scientific principles. Headquartered in London, Coltraco Ultrasonics is a global company and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of high-exporting advanced technology systems, products and services.

Coltraco Ultrasonics is the global leader in our fields of contents monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems and watertight/airtight integrity monitoring, all of which are integral to the success of any fire suppression system. We design ultrasonic technologies to "see the sounds that others cannot hear" and, in our acoustic and mechanical systems, to "measure the hitherto unmeasurable".

An emphasis on fundamental science in "practical scholarship" and sustained, innovation, invention, and discovery continues to underpin Coltraco's research, development, design, and ergonomics program. Our technologies take advantage of the fundamental characteristics and properties of sounds waves to monitor and measure an array of specialised environments across 25 diverse market sectors, including the fire industry, delivering the Safesite(tm) on land and the Safeship(tm) at sea.

For instance, where it would previously have taken a 2-man team 15 minutes to dismantle, weigh, and reinstall one 45kg CO2 fire extinguishing gas cylinder on a large ship, that may have up to 600, Coltraco Ultrasonics' science-led technologies allow one person to monitor the contents of that fire suppression gas cylinder in the gas suppression system in 15 seconds.

Within this vision of the Safesite(tm) on land and the Safeship(tm) at sea, our technologies allow customers to justify actively engaging in going above and beyond existing regulations as an integrated and essential element to their business activity. Customers, personnel, and assets alike will be better for it.


Coltraco Ultrasonics and the Monitoring of Liquified and Non-Liquified Gaseous, CO2, and Clean Agent Fixed Fire Suppression Systems

Clean agents are pressurised liquified or non-liquified fire suppression gas, that is pressurised on actuation, and commonly used in the fire industry. CO2, frequently used in a gas fire suppression system, is permanently under 720 psi or 49 bar of pressure, nearly 50 times atmospheric pressure. Pressurised fire extinguishing gas cylinders are often considered by the fire industry as single and passive columns of solid material, from the perspective of their monitoring following installation.

However, as these cylinders are constantly under pressure, with this pressure changing due to variations in temperature, they should be considered active, dynamic systems, that require constant monitoring. Indeed, all good engineering demands the monitoring of dynamic structures, such as highly pressurised cylinders, that are designed to protect critical infrastructure and assets.

Coltraco Ultrasonics' Portalevel(r) ultrasonic liquid level indicators are capable of measuring the level of liquified and non-liquified fire suppression gas in a gaseous fire extinguisher to +/-1.5mm accuracy. This level of accuracy has never been achieved before.

These technologies are complemented by the Permalevel(r) Featherweight, which allows for the constant monitoring of a gas suppression system from these fixed monitoring sites and can be tracked centrally at the customer location and remotely globally, and our Portascanner(r) AIRTIGHT 520. Without constant monitoring, a risk is generated in the very environment for which it is designed to reduce risk.

Coltraco Ultrasonics' retrofittable devices allow users to go above and beyond existing safety regulations, combining the ease of retrofitting with the highest accuracy of constant monitoring, capable of monitoring both liquified and non-liquified gas fire suppression systems.


Coltraco Ultrasonics at the Forefront of Room Integrity Monitoring with the Portascanner(r) AIRTIGHT 520

Our Portascanner(r) AIRTIGHT 520 ultrasonic airtightness and leak detection instrument is able to detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm, with a tolerance of 0.02mm. This is an unparalleled level of accuracy, and Coltraco Ultrasonics is the only company world-wide able whose instruments are able to monitor level and precisely identify, measure, and quantify the size, extent, and severity of leaks.

Coltraco has been a part of the Working Group on British and International Standards Organisation (ISO) Standards Safety Engineering since 2016. Room integrity monitoring is essential under ISO 14520 where gaseous extinguishing systems have to be designed in relation to the discharging agent hold-time and discharging agent peak pressure, to ensure that fire extinguishing gases do not leak, and that fires are not replenished with fresh oxygen.

Whilst room integrity is frequently monitored at the design stage of a fire suppression system through positive pressurisation, such as with a Door Fan Test or Pulse Test, it is common for further tests to be completed infrequently once this initial inspection has been passed. A building is like a ship at sea. It turns and bends as any structure does, and during this aging, leak sites develop.

A new British invention, following the co-location of our Physicists and Scientists at Durham University, a globally outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence, the Portascanner(r) AIRTIGHT 520 builds on Coltraco Ultrasonics' long history in watertight integrity monitoring for the Royal Navy.

The Portascanner(r) AIRTIGHT 520 allows for the ultrasonic quantification of leak sites in a depressurised environment, which is a unique capability globally. Regular, simple, and accurate room integrity testing with the Portascanner(r) AIRTIGHT 520 will allow the fire industry to make sharper decisions, verify technical specifications, and reveal possible defects in a complementary manner to periodic Door Fan or Pulse room integrity testing.


Why Use Ultrasonic Technology in the Fire Industry?

Ultrasonic measuring solutions are a better-faster-cheaper method of ensuring safe fire engineering practices are adhered to.

  • Better: Ultrasonic technology is non-invasive, non-destructive, and non-disruptive, meaning it is safer for personnel and does not require the user to shut down the fire suppression system during inspection.  
  • Faster: The non-disruptive, non-invasive nature of ultrasonic contents monitoring allows testing to take place when the fire suppression system is in-situ and operational. Likewise, the absence of any need for pressurisation, and simple-to-use instruments, allow for rapid, regular room integrity inspections, with little previous training required.  
  • Cheaper: Enabling inspection to take place without disruption to the fire suppression system means no shut-down, saving time, and no requirement for multiple operators, saving labour costs.

This facilitates the implementation of a comprehensive maintenance program as part of a strategic approach to business continuity, reducing the risk of accidental or ineffective discharges and leaks not being picked up, creating additional value, leading to revenue reward.

It is our vision that this industrial integration of technological solutions to provide a bulwark against wider industry misrepresentation and minimal, even occasional and flagrant disregard in the application of standards and good global engineering will create standards which all can understand and apply.

The mathematics of its failure are high, whether in the application and understanding of the formulas used to calculate design concentrations of gases or flow rates, or in the deployment of fundamental engineering principles to protect dynamic pressurised systems and the structures they are working so hard to protect against fire.