Novec 1230 is a synthetic chemical extinguisher, a fluorinated ketone, stored in liquid form and released as gas (a propellant is required for extinguishing fires). Since it does not contain water (“waterless”), it is also known under the name of “water without water” or “dry water”. Novec extinguishes fire by cooling, and it does so by removing the free radicals or heat in the combustion triangle (oxygen, heat, fuel). Together with air, it forms a gas mixture, which has a much higher heat capacity than air alone, and with each one-degree-Celsius-increase in temperature that Novec is exposed to, it absorbs more energy. It is important that extinguishing with Novec does not reduce the concentration of oxygen in the room, thereby preventing the possibility of suffocation.
Its concentration is usually between 5.3 % and 5.6 % of the volume of the total room. In its natural state, Novec 1230 looks similar to water – it is a clear, colourless liquid with plain odour. It is non-conductive in gas and in liquid state. The breakdown voltage of the saturated vapour of the liquid in controlled conditions, at the pressure of 1 atmosphere, 21 °C and a spacing between the electrodes of 2.7 mm, is 15.6 kV. In liquid state, this voltage is 48 kV under the same conditions. Novec has some interesting properties. It is often advertised by filling up a fish tank with it and then sinking a lit LCD screen or some other piece of electronic equipment in it. As shown in the figure, a mobile phone that was submerged in Novec operates normally. Its boiling temperature is 48 °C and it evaporates when used for extinguishing by discharging it from the cylinders. The transition from liquid to gas state is extremely fast, about 50 times faster than that of water. This fluid is classified as a clean extinguisher, which means that it is safe to use in rooms with a permanent presence of people. As mentioned above, the fluid does not reduce the oxygen concentration in the room, since only a low concentration is required. In an area threatened by fire, the fluid is released in six to ten seconds. Due to its properties neither the visibility is reduced nor is breathing made difficult in the room that is being extinguished, which allows for people to safely leave the room.
Advantages of Novec 1230
The advantage of the Novec 1230 extinguisher is that a relatively small concentration is sufficient for fire extinguishing to be successful which also means a small amount of the stored extinguisher. If we compare the amount of different extinguishers required to successfully extinguish a fire (a typical extinguishing system – class B), then one cylinder of Halon 1301 (which is being abandoned because of its adverse impact on the environment) corresponds to two cylinders of Novec 1230, nine cylinders of carbon dioxide and fifteen cylinders of inert gas.
Environmentally friendly, relentless to fire
Novec 1230 is non-conductive and can be used for extinguishing all forms of devices and assemblies that have voltage and where the use of other extinguishers would cause a short circuit and thus uncontrolled destruction of equipment. In comparison to its synthetic “rivals”, Novec also has numerous atmospheric advantages. It is listed among the so-called green gases and it does not threaten the ozone layer.
Safe, stable, efficient
Today, Novec is the safest extinguisher for use in permanently occupied rooms. The transportation and handling of Novec is simple, because it is in liquid state at room temperature and is not filled under pressure which is also an advantage over other extinguishing systems. For this reason, it is easy to transport it by land, water or air. Just the force of gravity is thus enough for handling, filling and refilling. Novec is a stable, environmentally friendly, sustainable and long term solution that meets not only today’s standards but also the environmental standards of the future.
Air planes, archives, art galleries, libraries, computer centres
There are only a few areas where the Novec 1230 extinguisher proves to be the best choice. The use of Novec could roughly be divided into four areas: protection of high-value premises where there are usually people around; applications where the use of other extinguishers could prove problematic and could cause damage; applications where the storage space for extinguishers is very limited (for example on air planes) and all other applications that require the extinguisher to be non-conductive.
Extinguishing systems with the Novec extinguisher can be found in archives, art galleries, museums, libraries, storage rooms for high value goods, computer centres and server rooms, telecommunication hubs, internet service providers, process centres, clean rooms, supervisory and control centres, nuclear power plants, railway hubs and metro junctions, financial institutions and banks, safes, in the insurance industry, in air traffic control, at airports, in medical facilities and laboratories, on ships, air planes, on and in military equipment, in oil and gas hubs, oil rigs, petrochemical industry, pharmaceutics, power plants, schools, universities etc.
Components of the Novec extinguishing system
Extinguishing systems obviously differ from each other; the choice depends on the type of combustible material, room use, size, shape and geometry, but there are certain components and their interrelationships which are common to all.
The extinguisher supply consists of a frame and cylinders (one or more) containing the extinguisher. Special brackets provide stability for cylinders, but if one or two cylinders are enough, they may be mounted on a wall with a special fixing element. The extinguisher is brought to the room under threat from these storage containers.
Fire extinguishing system with a gas extinguisher
Fire nozzles in the room are connected to the extinguisher supply (with cylinders) via mechanical installations and additional intermediate elements. To effectively connect the system components and to perform mechanical installations the following is required: coupling elements, a pressure gauge (can be more than one), a low pressure control switch, an electric and manual trigger. If the extinguisher is contained in several cylinders, one cylinder is the main cylinder (primary), while the others are subordinate to it (secondary). Such a layout (“master-slave”) and the manner of cylinder discharge includes pneumatic triggers, a valve activation control, a release display, an activating tube (which connects the valves of all cylinders), a discharge pressure switch and a return-shut-off valve.
The entire extinguishing system is still managed by a fire alarm central control panel that connects all of the system’s components and coordinates their actions. The fire alarm central control panel also makes the final decision on extinguishing and the Novec extinguishing system activation. It controls the state of the electric trigger, fire detectors and warning signs, the pressure in the cylinders, potential manual activation or cancelling / postponement of extinguishing through the input / output functions. The detectors connected with the manual devices for activation or cancellation / postponement of extinguishing further increase the efficiency of the system at a stage when the staff is being informed of an emergency through audio and visual warning signs.
Extinguishing before ignition
The basic principle of extinguishing with Novec (as well as other gas extinguishers) is that it is initiated as soon as there is the slightest suspicion of ignition. There are two reasons for this:
Firstly, the potential damage caused by the fire is zero, secondly, we avoid some of the side products (chemical reactivity) that would appear if we would use Novec to extinguish an already developed fire. Therefore, an aspirating smoke detector is installed in the room under threat which rapidly responds to a potential fire threat. In a way, it is a very sensitive “artificial nose” which uses very precise electronic devices to constantly analyse the air in the room, and detects minimal changes of smoke particle concentration. The system can also be linked to an intelligent Building Management System (BMS) and various fire consoles.
If an extinguishing event takes place and the extinguisher is released, it is important that the system returns to its original state as soon as possible. This can only be provided by companies / distributors that have their own bottling plant with a supply of the extinguisher and a very fast response time.