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New insights on the explosion severity of nanopowders: a nano-grain of sand in the gears of the standards

Abstract : The small size of nanoparticles implies a high specific surface area, which induces original properties when compared to micropowders, such as chemical, mechanical, optical or biological properties. Among these new specificities, nanoparticles are subjected to weak cohesion forces, such as van der Waals, electrostatic or capillary forces, which cause them to agglomerate in a reversible way. However, dust explosions require the dispersion of the dust in the air, which can lead to a breakage of these agglomerates. The aim of this work is then to study the influence of nanoparticles specificities, notably the agglomeration, on their ignition sensitivity and explosion severity, and evaluate the adequacy of the international standard methods to determine these parameters when it comes to nanoparticles. Four types of powders were chosen to highlight the specific behavior of each type of combustible powder: carbon black, nanocellulose, aluminum and carbon-coated silicon. The powders were characterized by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), specific surface measurement and helium pycnometer, and their particle size distribution (PSD) was measured before and after dispersion using different methods. The mean surface diameter, used to consider the high surface area of nanoparticles, considerably decreases after the injection in the 20L sphere, i.e the standard equipment to measure the explosion severity of a dust. This observation highlighted the necessity to characterize the dust after injection in the 20L sphere, to accurately evaluate the explosion risk. Ignition and explosion tests were conducted in standard conditions, but also by varying the powder preparation (aging, drying, sieving, agglomeration), and the operating conditions (dispersion procedure, ignition energy, initial turbulence). Specific behaviors related to the powder nature (carbonaceous, organic or metallic) were then observed, discussed, and alternative measurement methods were proposed. For instance, alternative dispersion nozzles were tested to provide a better cloud homogeneity or to reproduce industrial release conditions. Dispersion procedure and ignition source should be adapted to the minimum ignition energy of the nanopowders to avoid both pre-ignition and overdriving. Variation of the ignition delay time can be helpful to obtain the most conservative results. One of the main proposals consists in the consideration of the laminar burning velocity as a standard characteristic of the explosion severity. Experiments were conducted in a flame propagation tube and a vented 20L sphere to evaluate the unstretched burning velocity of nanocellulose. The results were then compared to an existing correlation based on the pressure-time evolution during standard experiments. Furthermore, a flame propagation model, initially designed for hybrid mixtures, was adapted to the flame propagation in a cloud of organic nanoparticles, showing consistent results with the experiments.
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Audrey Santandrea. New insights on the explosion severity of nanopowders: a nano-grain of sand in the gears of the standards. Chemical and Process Engineering. Université de Lorraine, 2020. English. ⟨NNT : 2020LORR0104⟩. ⟨tel-02976265⟩

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