FLIR Systems ThermoVision™ A40 is preferred camera for fire prevention and fire detection in solid waste bunkers
Solid waste management is a crucial sector in our
consumer society. It is a USD 43- billion-industry and growing as more
regions experience positive economic growth and prosperity and
consequently produce more household waste. At the same time, legitimate
environmental concerns push for an increasingly streamlined waste
disposal, treatment, neutralization and recycling process. The waste has
to be gathered, stored and processed. As supply (in this case places
for storage or processing of waste) is scarce and demand is increasing,
economic laws of market and efficiency increasingly apply to waste
In densely populated West-European countries, solid
household waste is collected and carried to a waste incineration plant,
rather than dumped directly in landfill sites. The most advanced
incineration plants use the combustion heat to fuel up an adjacent
waste-to-energy system, which provides heating and power to nearby
The waste is therefore stored in so-called waste
bunkers, which contain thousands of metric tons of solid waste. This
waste is potentially flammable when stored: self-combustion, heat
development due to pressure, spontaneous chemical reactions between the
disposals, methane gas-building, are potential fire creators. Waste
bunker fires can be hazardous for both operator and environment: the
heavily contaminated firefighting water, which hampers the further
processing of the waste,has to be disposed as well. And firefighting does not always reach
potential fire spots still dangerously smouldering somewhere in the
large and deep bunker. This is why the stored waste has to be
permanently moved, mixed and turned by crane operators.
The infrared image shows hot-spots in the waste. This means a danger for spontaneous self-combustion and fire.
Preventing fires with infrared
The need for fire prevention becomes even more acute
for installations with a waste shredder: sparks from shredding metal
and other solid parts compound with methane gases, resulting in an
explosive cocktail scattering around the entire waste bunker.
Consequently, fire prevention and fire detection are
important issues for waste storage and management. While most national
or regional legislators stipulate that fire prevention ought to be taken
by the public or private plant operator, they generally do not clearly
Infrared cameras are excellent tools for both fire
prevention and fire detection, provided they offer some basic features
that serve the purpose.
- the ability to detect and clearly visualize nascent hot spots through smoke and dust
- measure and indicate temperature
- control pre-defined areas on a permanent basis
- raise an alarm when a temperature threshhold is passed.
Fire prevention systems are installed by specialized system integrators. One such
integrator on the market is the high-tech company m.u.t GmbH, based
near Hamburg, Germany. m.u.t. develops and markets photonics products
solutions in the medical, aerospace, security and other
sectors, and has specialized, among other things, in early fire
detection for air and land transportation carriers and waste
The ThermoVision™ A40 in its protective housing.
m.u.t. offers a complete solution including
planning, installation, software, hardware, and maintenance. It has
installed more than forty infrared camera-based early fire detection
systems in waste bunkers across Europe. “Preliminary planning is the
hardest part of the job”, says Werner Hagedorn, Account Manager for the
early fire detection products, “we have to define the best place to
install the camera, divide the entire waste bunker in zones and ensure
that for example the minimum surface of 30x30 cm to detect hot spots
that is advised by some regional legislators, is covered by the camera.”
ThermoVision™ A40 monitors waste bunkers constantly
m.u.t has chosen the FLIR Systems ThermoVision A40-M fix-mounted camera for all its waste bunker installations. The A40
offers a spectral range of 7.5 to 13 μm, which allows to look through
smoke and dust. Its 320x240 pixel uncooled microbolometer detector
provides excellent thermal sensitivity and clear infrared imaging.
Visual Basic/ C++ and LabView™ software development kits enable
customers a smooth application integration. m.u.t has successfully made
use of these facilities to integrate the A40 camera into ARTUS, its
waste bunker early fire detection software suite.
One ThermoVision A40 camera, mounted on a pan stilt
and placed in an appropriate protective housing, is able to inspect a
surface of up to 2,000 sq m. The camera registers the surface
temperature of the waste, comparing it to the maximum temperature
defined by the waste bunker operator.
The waste bunker surface is divided in zones. The ThermoVision™ A40 checks every zone subsequently.
The control room of a waste bunker. If the ThermoVision™ A40 detects a hot spot an alarm will go off.
The m.u.t. engineers divide the bunker surface in
zones which depend on the size of the waste bunker. The camera checks
every zone subsequently and its FireWire output provides temperature
information and infrared imaging to the crane operator’s monitor screen
in real-time. The operator is also able to steer the camera from his
working place. Three alarm levels marked by visual as well as sound
alarms warn the crane operator of substantial temperature differences on
the waste surface in a particular zone. The waste is then mixed and
turned, transferred to another zone, or carried directly to the oven for
Although every infrared camera detector pixel
measures a temperature value, the m.u.t engineers have chosen a
temperature measurement, based on a 3x3 pixel grid. They considered 2x2
pixels as inadequate and uncertain. “3x3 pixel secures additional
measurement accuracy and consequently a clearer image contrast, while
excluding false alarms”, says Volker Meliss, Marketing Director at
“The ThermoVision A40 does all the mea-surements”,
says Hagedorn, “and its thermal sensitivity and measurement accuracy are
excellent. But above all there is no need for a camera with a cooled
detector for such applications as waste bunker inspections: the A40-M
has an uncooled detector and needs virtually no specific maintenance.
And that makes infrared monitoring of waste processing as well as in
many other industrial applications affordable”.
Acknowledgements to Joachim Sarfels, Area Sales Manager at FLIR Germany, for establishing contacts and providing support.