2015 SUPDET Conference attendees ponder  the challenges of smoke detection aboard the International Space Station 

Blog Post created by jesseroman Employee on Mar 4, 2015

Space photo

Researcher David Urban of NASA's Glenn Research Center presenting today at the SUPDET Conference in Orlando, Florida. 

Fire, smoke and detection issues are quite literally universal, on land, at sea and even in space. If there were any doubts of that, David Urban of NASA’s Glenn Research Center laid them to rest during his presentation Wednesday morning at the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s 2015 Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research and Applications (SUPDET) Conference.

Urban’s talk, “Smoke Detection in Low Gravity—Results from the Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiments Conducted on the International Space Station,” measured the distribution and particle size from combustion materials resulting from burning typical substances found aboard a spacecraft. By burning these substances—Teflon Kapton, silicone rubber, cellulose, and dibutyl-phthalate—aboard the International Space Station and analyzing the results, NASA hoped to learn how to improve smoke detection in space.

“In spacecraft, it’s critical that detection happen as early as possible,” before ignition, Urban said.

There are many challenges to detection that arise in the unique environment of space, Urban said. Those challenges include the way smoke diffuses in low gravity environments, the elevated amount of dust and other particles floating in the environment, airflow within the space station, and the vast amount of equipment that can often get in way of detection devices.

Urban’s presentation was one of several this morning, the last day of the detection portion of this year’s SUPDET Conference, which runs through March 6 at the Wyndham Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida. Attendees also saw presentations on the effect ceiling fans have on smoke alarm performance, early warning fire detection in nuclear power plants, the challenges of integrating systems to achieve smarter buildings, and detection of fires in heavy duty vehicles.

Yesterday’s SUPDET sessions included information on detecting and preventing cooking fires, carbon monoxide diffusion through walls, nuisance sources for smoke alarms, occupant evacuation operation of elevators, and many more.

The suppression portion of the 2015 SUPDET conference begins tomorrow.