Toxic gas analysis

One of the most dangerous aspects of a fire is the toxic gases that can arise from the process of combustion.  BASF is the largest chemical producer in the world and its Fire Technology Laboratory in Ludwigshafen, Germany, conducts fire testing on materials to assess the fire behaviour and flammability of products.

To save lives and develop safer materials for airplanes, trains, and buildings, it is vital to identify and measure the gases that are released when products and materials are burning.  During these tests, a small specimen of the material is ignited in a test chamber and the produced gases are collected by a heated sampling system. Toxicity analysis of these gases is then performed with an advanced Fourier Transform InfraRed (FTIR) gas analyser.

The BASF laboratory is managed by Dr. Rolf Henn, who says: “FTIR is the method which was selected by the DIN and EN standardisation work groups as the most reliable standard method for the quantification of toxic fire effluents because it is capable of measuring all of the target gases across a wide concentration range. In most standards, this includes: CO, CO2, HCN, SO2, NOx, HCl, HF and HBr. Using Calcmet™ software, spectra can easily be analysed and stored. Hence, any measurements can be reanalysed retrospectively when necessary.”

news_toxixThe BASF Fire Technology Laboratory is accredited to DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025 and provides a wide range of testing services for products from both BASF and external organisations.

Many of the products that Dr Henn’s laboratory tests are in the process of development; so this work helps to determine whether materials are suitable for production on a commercial scale. These products, including those from non-BASF organisations, are predominantly from the construction and rolling stock market sectors and include thermoplastics, thermosets, metal sheets, wood, flooring, wall and ceiling materials, varnishes and other products containing organic material. Test procedures are conducted according to relevant standards such as EN 45545-2 and DIN 5510-2 for rolling stock.

The Gasmet FTIR analyser  has been chosen to conduct these tests for a number of reasons. Dr Henn explains “Its peration is easy right from the start; even for beginners in spectroscopy. The red, yellow and green lights displayed by the Calcmet software for each respective gas component give operators a simple and immediate hint of a possible mismatch in spectra analysis, so that they can follow up with, for example, manual adaptation of the spectral region used for determination of this specific toxic gas component. The Gasmet instrument therefore represents the optimal solution between fully automated data evaluation and manual IR spectrum assessment.

“Gasmet Ansyco provided a complete test system to meet our specific needs, including calibration of toxic gas components and interfering substances. Importantly, technical and service support was always prompt and delivered with a high level of expertise,” he adds.

Expressing his pleasure with the success of this application, Ansyco Managing Director Aappo Roos, says: “BASF employs Gasmet FTIR in a number of different process control and safety applications. Our fire testing system exemplifies the advantages of this technology; with hot and humid smoke and often a highly aggressive gas mixture, the Gasmet FTIR has a proven ability to analyze a large number of different organic and inorganic gases simultaneously. Robust, accurate and reliable analytical technology is clearly imperative in this vital work that protects both life and property.”