The evolution of gas detection has dramatically changed over time as new, innovative ideas are showcased. From canaries to portable, personalized equipment, companies strive to protect their workers as technology develops.
The history of gas detection begins during the Industrial Revolution when the use of fuel was starting to show great promise, like coal. Coal is mined from the group and required a large number of people to do so. Tools like helmets and flame lights were their only protection from the unknowns underground–the dangers of methane exposure were yet to be discovered. Methane gas is colorless and odorless, making it hard to know it’s presence until a noticeable pattern of health problems was discovered. The risks of gas exposure resulted in experimenting with detection methods to preserve the safety of the workers for years to come.
Once gas exposure was realized, miners selected a designated individual as the gas detector. The individual would wear a thick, wet blanket over their bodies while carrying a long wick with the end lit on fire. Entering the mines, the individual would move the flame around and along the walls looking for gas pockets. If found, a reaction would ignite and be noted to the crew while the person detecting was protected from the blanket. The reason behind this method is based on the ethical idea of sacrificing one for the safety of many while ensuring the continuation of the project. With time, more advanced methods of detecting gas were developed.
Canaries became the second method of gas detection due to their loud chirps and similar nervous systems for controlling breathing patterns. The canaries were placed in certain areas of the mine and housed. From there, workers would check on the canaries to care for them as well as see if their health had been affected. During work shifts, miners would listen to the canaries chirp. If one of the canaries started to shake its cage, that was a strong indicator of a gas pocket exposure and starting to affect its health. Miners would then leave the canary and exit the mine, noting it was unsafe to enter. If the canary stopped chirping all together, miners knew to make a more urgent exit before the exposure compromised their health or reached a flame light igniting an explosion.
Due to concerns about animal safety, the use of flame lights as detectors began. While providing light for the miners, the flame was encapsulated in a flame-arrestor shell so if exposed to gas and creating an ignition reaction, the ignition range would be within the shell. The outside shell contained a glass piece with three incisions running horizontally. The middle line was set as the ideal gas environment while the bottom line indicated an oxygen-deficient environment, and the top line indicated methane exposure or an oxygen-enriched environment. The only problem with this method was the risk of the glass breaking or dropping of the light, causing the flame to be immersed with the gas in the area and resulting in an explosion.
Due to the need for gas detection in the mining industry, other sectors followed suit. Wastewater plants, oil & gas, refrigeration are all industries that have possible exposure to gas. The first gas monitor was a device with a valve to analytically show how much methane was present in the atmosphere. This was done with a catalytic diffusion sensor, burning gas inside the sensor, and not letting the gas escape back into the original environment. While useful for a time being, the con of using this device was manually pressing a button to see how much methane was present.
Over time, technology evolved and assisted in the advancement of gas detection. Nowadays, gas detectors have batteries, enabling the instrument to run for long periods without having to turn off or manually start. Devices now measure a variety of dangerous gases as well as measure several gases simultaneously. With the evolution of technology for gas detection, the risk of unsafe environments for workers is almost non-existent when maintaining the device properly.
DOD Technologies has a variety of portable and fixed gas detection systems for your needs. Do you have a question regarding the option to implement a gas detection system within your application? With more than 150 years of combined instrumentation and application knowledge, DOD Technologies is prepared to offer its expertise and solutions for your toughest requirements while keeping you, your employees, and equipment safe.
Contact us today via phone at (815) 680-6086 or through our web form.