Dust from processing nanomaterials may be highly explosive, study says

Washington – The dust resulting from processing nanomaterials may be much more explosive than combustible dust created by processing conventional materials, according to a study published online in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a journal from the American Chemical Society.

The energy needed to ignite metal nanomaterials is about 1/30th the energy needed to ignite sugar dust, which was the cause of the 2008 Imperial Sugar disaster in Georgia that killed 14 workers, according to an ACS press release. Researchers warned that explosion hazards exist in several areas during the processing and handling of nanomaterials, including from friction, grinding, drilling, sanding and cleaning.

The study also examined the explosiveness of two other risks:

  • Flocculent materials – which are non-spherical with a fibrous appearance – have a significant risk of ignition from high-voltage discharges found during the electrostatic flocking process in manufacturing
  • The addition of flammable gas to dust creates a mixture that increases the severity of the explosion

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