Vapor flammability above aqueous solutions of flammable liquids

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The flammability of vapors above aqueous solutions of ethanol and acetonitrile was studied experimentally in a 20-L combustion apparatus. No liquid was present in the apparatus, but the vapor concentrations were adjusted to correspond to the vapor in equilibrium with a specified aqueous solution. The experimental results for these two systems show that•As water is added to the vapor, the lower boundary of the flammability zone decreases. For ethanol, the lower flammability limits (LFL) decreases from 3.7% for pure vapor to 3.2% with saturated water vapor. For acetonitrile, the decrease is from 4.2% to 3.8%. Thus, to a good approximation, the water vapor can be treated as an inert, enabling the data to be displayed on a single flammability triangle diagram. This provides a very simplified method for estimating the flammable behavior for aqueous solutions.•The upper boundary of the flammability zone is unchanged with the addition of water.•The limiting oxygen concentration (LOC) is essentially constant for all concentrations of aqueous solutions. The LOC for the pure solvent may be used as a universal LOC for all solvent concentrations.•The vapor mixture above the aqueous solution is not flammable below a certain liquid mol fraction of flammable. The flammable concentration at which this occurs can be called the maximum safe solvent concentration (MSSC). A method is presented to determine the MSSC from experimental flammability data.•The oxygen concentration defining the flammable boundary for the vapor decreases rapidly from the MSSC and then increases as the liquid solvent concentration increases. The calculated adiabatic flame temperature (CAFT) method qualitatively predicts the same behavior as the experimental data. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries