Flame Detection Systems: Definition, Types, and Applications

flame detection systems

Flame detection systems are an essential component of any fire suppression system. By detecting fires quickly and accurately, these systems can help minimize the damage caused by fires and ensure the safety of people and property in the affected area.

Not sure what a flame detection system is and what it entails? Read below.

What Is a Flame Detection System?

A flame detection system is a safety device that is designed to detect the presence of a fire or flame in an environment. In many cases, a flame detection system will also trigger a building’s fire alert and suppression systems to activate — from sounding fire alarms to signaling first responders, running fire sprinklers and foam suppression systems, deactivating oil and gas lines, and more.

How Does a Flame Detection System Work?

A flame detection system typically uses a combination of sensors, detectors, and software to identify the unique characteristics of a flame, such as UV and IR signatures to spectral and temporal characteristics. This information is then used to trigger an alarm, alerting you of the presence of a fire and discharging your fire suppression system, allowing you to take appropriate action.

6 Types of Flame Detection Systems

There are several different types of flame detection systems available, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. It’s critical to understand how each functions so you can determine what’s best for your facility. Some of the most common types include:

1. Visual Imaging Flame Detectors

Visual imaging flame detectors utilize charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensors to spot the existence of a fire. The sensors use CCD live video to analyze possible fires’ shapes and growth patterns. This helps the devices determine what’s a legitimate fire hazard and what’s not.

A benefit of visual imaging flame detectors is that they don’t need carbon dioxide or other combustion emissions to identify a fire. However, one drawback is that they can’t identify fires that are invisible to the human eye. Invisible flames, like hydrogen flames, can be a serious threat to industrial environments.

2. Ultraviolet Flame Detectors

Ultraviolet (UV) flame detection systems use UV light to identify the presence of a flame. They are particularly effective at detecting fires in environments where there is a lot of smoke or other airborne particles.

UV flame detectors work effectively for distances of about 0-50 feet. Their performance may weaken at distances larger than that.

3. Infrared Flame Detectors

Infrared (IR) flame detection systems work by detecting the infrared radiation emitted by a flame. The gasses and airborne particles emanated by fires result in distinguishable patterns in IR wavelengths, which is what you see when a flame flickers. An IR flame detector will not sense or respond to a fire unless that flickering motion is present.

Something to keep in mind — IR flame detectors can cause false alarms. Hot gasses and airborne particles not caused by a fire can also produce the same flickering effect and trigger the device.

4. Ultraviolet/Infrared Flame Detectors

Ultraviolet/infrafred (UV/IR) flame detection systems utilize a mixture of UV and IR flame detector technology. They have two sensors that operate separately — one to detect any UV inconsistencies, and the other to detect any IR inconsistencies. 

This combination of sensors is beneficial because it can help avoid false alarms caused by one sensor or the other. Both sensors must be activated in order to send a signal and activate fire suppression systems.

5. Flame Ionization Detectors

Flame ionization detection systems work by measuring the electrical conductivity of the air around a flame. They are particularly effective at detecting fires in environments where there is a lot of combustible gas or vapor present.

6. Multispectral Flame Detectors

Multispectral flame detection systems, also known as multi-spectrum infrared (MSIR) flame detection systems, use a combination of different sensors to identify the unique spectral characteristics of a flame. They are particularly effective at detecting fires in environments with a lot of background noise or interference, and are effective within a distance of 200 feet or more. 

Flame Detection Systems for Industrial Applications

In addition to the type of flame detector used, flame detection systems can also be classified based on the type of environment they are designed for. For example, some systems are designed for use in general-purpose environments, such as commercial buildings and residential homes. Other systems are designed for use in hazardous environments, such as oil refineries or chemical plants where there is a high risk of fire or explosion.

Based on the information above, you may already be able to narrow down which type of flame detection system would be best for an industrial environment, such as an oil or gas pipeline, tank farm, off-shore platform, or aircraft hangar. Typically, these detectors are: 

  • Ultraviolet/infrared (UV/IR) flame detectors
  • Multispectral (MSIR) flame detectors

However, it’s always best to consult with a fire protection expert before making a choice. They can help you understand what option is truly best for your facility and its unique people, product, and layout.

Get Expert Flame Detection System Recommendations From Total Industrial Solutions

Don’t let your industrial facility be unprepared in the event of a fire emergency. Our team can help you figure out which flame detection system will best protect your people and resources. Contact us online to get started.