Aluminum is one of the most widely used metals in the different industries, from packaging for the Food Industry to the Aeronautical and Aerospace industries. Thanks to its ductility and resistance, this material allows countless uses. In fact, due to the huge amount of alloys that can be made with aluminum, it is possible to modify the characteristics of this metal in several ways, depending on your specific needs. Light, with a low magnetism and little prone to produce sparks, aluminum is present in almost all the industries. However, the situation is completely different when this material is available as aluminum particles or dusts that are highly explosive.
Aluminum dust is flammable
While aluminum massive blocks or bars have a thin oxide layer which hinders the diffusion of oxygen and thus prevents a chemical reaction that could cause damage, aluminum dust, having a lower surface, tends to heat up and therefore to burn very easily. The biggest mistake you can make, therefore, is considering aluminum as a harmless material without taking into account its characteristics as a dust.
Following are the 5 most important aspects that all workers, particularly those operating in the Engineering and Manufacturing Industry, Food Industry, Pharmaceutical Industry and Construction Industry have to take into account when using machines that operate with aluminum or produce aluminum waste.
The 5 most dangerous aspects about aluminum dusts
- aluminum dusts easily react with oxygen at room temperature, so virtually any workplace operating with aluminum or producing aluminum waste must adopt a security plan.
- The smaller the particles of aluminum dusts are the greater the risk of explosion or fire there is in an establishment. Particles smaller than 100 microns are considered dangerous. Anyone working in a pharmaceutical laboratory where aluminum hydroxide is used, for example, has definitely to use industrial vacuums with a high efficiency filtration to avoid any accident.
- Large particles are even more dangerous, because its combustion speed is higher. It’s uncommon that explosive dusts are uniform, so surely aluminum particles of bigger sizes that are considred “safe” are mixed with small 100 microns particles. The result is a high risk of explosion coupled with a high rate of burning.
- When the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere is between 10% and 15% fire tends to spread more rapidly; a higher concentration of oxygen promotes explosions considered as violent. It is much easier to avoid the accumulation of aluminum dusts with a proper maintenance than to modify the concentration of oxygen.
- When in contact with water, aluminum releases heat and hydrogen, so the slightest accumulation of aluminum dust can become a source of heat capable of causing an explosion. If impossible not to mix water and aluminum, you shall adopt a system of ATEX certified industrial vacuums and / or a vacuum that allows you to effectively separate dry from liquid materials.
Delfin. (2016, 03 09). Delfin. Retrieved from 5 DANGEROUS ASPECTS ABOUT ALUMINUM THAT EVERY WORKER SHOULD KNOW: https://www.delfinvacuums.com/en/news/5-dangerous-aspects-about-aluminum-that-every-worker-should-know