Why Gas Detection Is Paramount for Aircraft Safety

Aircraft primarily operate through the combustion of fuel-and-air mixtures, ensuring that enough thrust and propulsive force can be generated for the means of powered flight. Due to the ignition of fuel-and-air mixtures and the intense heat present in and around engines, it is highly important that there are measures in place to eliminate the hazard of uncontrolled ignitions of oxygen. As the aviation industry is highly regulated and always seeks to increase the safety of flight, engineers have designed robust oxygen gas sensors and tools that serve to protect aircraft and all on board.

After heavy research was conducted for the means of reducing explosion risks in aircraft fuel tanks, the Onboard Inert Gas Generation System (OBIGGS) was introduced. The OBIGGS is considered an autonomous inerting system, utilizing a hollow fiber separation process to produce Nitrogen Enriched Air (NEA) for the means of lowering the amount of pure oxygen that may be present within a fuel tank. By introducing nitrogen, the makeup of air in the tank can be better balanced in order to reduce the flammability of vapors. Explosion risks are also further mitigated through constant ventilation as well. While military aircraft have long used the OBIGGS due to their more stringent safety regulations, commercial aircraft had avoided such equipment for many years due to weight and cost concerns. Despite this, multiple manufacturers have recently begun to adopt dynamic inerting systems to further protect their aircraft.

A major element of the OBIGGS is the zirconium dioxide oxygen sensor which is capable of measuring partial pressure of oxygen in either a single gas or a mixture of gases. Zirconium dioxide oxygen sensors are commonly housed within assemblies that are very rigorous and resistant to corrosion, allowing them to excel in harsh environments. As such, they can benefit engines due to their capability of undertaking large amounts of pressure from high altitudes and their ability to deter chemical attacks from various fluids and vapors. Such sensors may be found within the air separation module of the OBIGGS, guaranteeing that oxygen levels remain below the threshold of combustion.

While inerting systems for aircraft have long been proposed, it was not until several fuel tank explosions that the FAA began to seriously consider their use. After various research and development endeavors, modern inerting systems have been improved to be much simpler as compared to their predecessors, utilizing similar oxygen-enriching methods that are seen in medical devices. For civilian aircraft in particular, inerting systems have been designed to continuously operate while the engine is powered, maintaining oxygen concentrations at a safe value of around 12%.

Alongside monitoring the oxygen levels within an engine, other detectors and sensors also may be used to protect passengers and crew members from hazardous gases such as carbon monoxide. While rare, there are some instances in which a specific component may malfunction or break, raising the chance of carbon monoxide leaking into a cabin. As such gases are extremely dangerous to individuals, devices such as the multi gas detector may be used. With a multi gas detector, an individual is capable of monitoring spaces for hazardous gases with ease as the device is typically a hand-held, portable tool.

Whether you are in need of OBIGGS parts, multi gas detector equipment, or an air intake detector, there is no better alternative to NSN Components. NSN Components is a leading online distributor of aircraft components and aviation standard parts, offering customers competitive prices and rapid lead-times on over 2 billion items we currently offer. With our RFQ service, customers can quickly request quotes at any time, allowing them to conduct comparisons as they see fit. If you would like to begin the purchasing process or simply would like to speak with one of our representatives, give us a call or email today and see how we can assist you with your needs.


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January 18, 2021

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