Data centre fire protection with Vortex

Published:  01 August, 2013

Small data and telecoms centres worldwide have a new technology option when it comes to fire protection – and the good news is that it doesn’t require room integrity. Jose Sanchez talks with Victaulic’s Frank Barstow about the Vortex hybrid system.

It’s been a long time coming but finally the Victaulic hybrid system of combined nitrogen and water mist system is available outside the US. Systems are now being installed in Europe, Middle East and Asia, and confidence is growing that the NFPA will begin work on a new standard for a technology that is so specialised it has hitherto not been able to fit into any other standard, even though Vortex was FM Approved as the world’s first-ever Class 5580 hybrid (water and inert gas) fire extinguishing system in 2009.

In approving the system, FM created a category specifically for Victaulic Vortex because the revolutionary system could not be classified within the approval agency’s existing boundaries.

Public comments on the creation of a new NFPA standard for the application of hybrid, gas, and fine water droplet systems ended May 30th and the next stage is decision time, when it will be decided whether an existing standard should cover the technology or whether a new document should be created.

Vortex is hybrid technology that puts together two things to extinguish the fire. It uses two types of tanks, one set filled with nitrogen and a much smaller tank filled with water. When it discharges, nitrogen enters the piping at low pressure (25psi), but as it travels through the emitter (ie nozzle) it is travelling at supersonic speeds which create shock waves as it hits a foil. On a separate line, water at 5psi drops onto the shock waves, where it is atomised to 10 microns of size. The tiny water droplets are then entrained in the nitrogen molecules, resulting in a homogenous suspension of nitrogen and water.

‘The droplets are so small that if you walked into a room full of them you would feel cool, but when you walked out you would be dry. It doesn’t wet surfaces so conductivity isn’t an issue,’ explains Frank.

The fire is attacked in two ways. Firstly, the nitrogen lowers the oxygen content in the room to a level at which humans can still safely breathe but fire cannot exist. Secondly, the droplets cool the room to the extent no flashbacks can occur. ‘The beauty of it is that it works like a gaseous system in that it penetrates all spaces but – while a gaseous system requires a room to be gas tight, the Vortex does not,’ adds Frank.

In the US,Victaulic Vortex has in the last few years been primarily used in machine rooms, turbine enclosures, and engine test cells. It has been particularly successful in the power industry, replacing old CO2 and Halon systems. It has also seen a lot of success in the steel industry, which is typically protected by sprinkler deluge systems.

In 2009, Vortex was installed by Kentucky-based North American Stainless (NAS) in a new production line for annealing and pickling of stainless steel.

The line is one of the largest units of its type in the world, with an annual rolling capacity of more than 1.2 million tons. The NAS pickling line application required that minimal water be released from the fire suppression system because excessive wetting would damage motors and controls, fill accumulator and motor drive pits and cause expensive damage and downtime on the lines.

As a pre-engineered system, Vortex is scalable to any sized data room, down to about 600 cubic feet depending on elevation on the low end.

  • Operation Florian

Sign up: eMagazine & eNewsletter

The latest issues in your inbox.

Company Profiles

HazSim - Bringing situational HazMat training to life

HazSim, LLC provides innovative simulation training to ensure your team works safely and effectively. HazSim Pro simulation equipment is in use by hundreds of fire departments, training schools, industrial fire teams, and private trainers across the US, Canada and further afield as well as the US Army.

Revolutionizing fire fighting foam technology

The one-stop resource for fire fighting foam concentrates and custom-designed foam suppression systems hardware.

Advancing rescue technology

The specialist supplier of quality PPE and Rescue Equipment to Emergency Services.

The ultimate in innovation, quality and service

For 60 years Lehavot has been delivering the world’s most advanced fire detection and suppression automatic systems

Trust the best, let us be your foam solution

AUXQUIMIA is a Spanish company whose main activity is the design, manufacture and commercialization of firefighting foam concentrates.

Williams Fire & Hazard Control offers a full line of specialized fire response equipment for oil and gas platforms

From storage tanks and pipeline emergencies to offshore platforms and vessels at sea, Williams' response personnel and specialized equipment quickly address adverse fire emergencies.

Foam fights fire

Europe’s foremost fire fighting foam manufacturer has been developing and producing foams since the 1920s.

The leader in truck-mounted hydraulic platforms

Our mission is to provide the best and the safest solution to professionals that work at height.

The independent alternative

Dafo Fomtec AB is a privately owned company with head office in Stockholm Sweden and manufacturing in Helsingborg in the south of Sweden.

If you want quality, you want Zico

Since its inception Ziamatic Corp has provided the men and women of the fire service with products designed to make their jobs safer and easier.

Calendar