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We examine “the world’s smallest fire extinguisher”

We examine “the world’s smallest fire extinguisher”
Fire incidents often begin at electronic devices. Now an integrated solution helps fire suppression at its origin.
Fire extinguisher technology has not evolved much over the last several years simply because what is already available does the job well in most circumstances. There is quite a bit of R&D being done into the chemicals and sensors useful for fighting different types of fire, but they are still not ready for mass-market adoption.

But there are certain areas where innovation is needed, and efforts in these areas can help reduce the possibilities of large fire incidents. For instance, 30 percent of the fire incidents in the US begin within an electric device, according to the NFPA. This could be due to many reasons, from voltage fluctuation, overload, and ambient conditions to faulty or aging products. The real problem here is that you cannot detect and suppress a fire that begins at an electrical device at an early stage.

This is where JOB, an Ahrensburg, Germany-based company aims to target its solution, E-Bulb. According to Markus Fiebig, Senior Product Manager at the company, it is “the smallest fire extinguisher in the world.”

How E-Bulb works

The E-Bulb is a coated glass bulb filled with non-toxic extinguishing agents. It was developed based on sprinkler glass technology. The smallest
E-Bulb integrated fire extinguisher
Markus Fiebig
Senior Product Manager
version of E-Bulb is just two centimeters tall, as small as a typical micro fuse.

“One in every three fires start due to electricity mainly within electrical appliances,” explains Fiebig. “Further, the increasing number of electrical devices in our homes and the ‘smart-home trend’ keeps many electronics always powered, always on standby. Hence every powered electronic equipment carries inherent fire risk. Motivated by increasing product safety and lowering the risk of business interruption, our idea was to improve the existing fire-prevention concept and fight fires at the earliest possible point in time and directly at the source of origin.

This concept is called device-integrated fire protection. Stopping fire at the device level minimizes costs, saves lives, and ensures minimum interruption to businesses.

Check out more fire safety solutions here

Where to use E-Bulb

The areas of application for E-Bulbs are many and varied. They include power adapters in advertising screens (media technology), ventilators in medical technology, and household appliances. Comparable to the aqua-stop leak protection in washing machines, the E-Bulb is part of the fire-stop system for electrical appliances.

“What makes E-Bulb unique is that it is a simple, passive, and reliable solution to make safe electrical appliances even safer,” Fiebig continued. “The E-Bulb works 24/7 without power. When the E-Bulb detects a fire or a heat increase (e.g., arc-tracking, fire, etc.), the component bursts, irreversibly cuts power and extinguishes the fire. The E-Bulb does not need maintenance and has a lifetime of more than ten years.”

Who will find this useful?

The E-Bulb works with a broad range of electronics from LED walls, medical equipment to home appliances to any power adapter. Fiebig says the company sees increasing demand for its application in electronic devices used in sensitive areas like airports, train stations, or fairs where many people are present.

“Through the use of device-integrated fire protection, including E-Bulbs, electrical appliances switch from being classified as “causing a fire” to “being involved in a fire” in a fire risk assessment,” Fiebig said. “This is especially relevant for sensitive locations, such as shopping centers, exhibition halls, airports, or train stations. This also means that printers, screens, or billboards can often gain installation approval, even in escape-route areas. This is a win-win-win situation for visitors, operators, and manufacturers and is already driving demand.”

Another increasing market is home appliances.

“Many of us remember the horrible Grenfell Tower fire from 2017, where 72 lost their lives,” Fiebig added. “The fire started within the electronics of a refrigerator. Currently, we are in design-in with quality-conscious home appliances manufacturers to design E-Bulbs in coffee makers, dishwashers, tumble dryers, and refrigerators. Medical technology manufacturers of ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and defibrillators are also currently modifying their electronics to upgrade fire protection concepts using E-Bulbs.”

What we think of the market potential

Stopping fire at its origin is definitely the next best thing to having no fire incident at all. Electrical and electronic device manufacturers are becoming more and more aware of this issue and the need for minimizing the damages.

According to Electrical Safety First, a UK-based organization that works to reduce electricity-related incidents, the average success rate of an electrical product recall in the UK is just 10-20 percent. This means that there are potentially millions of recalled electrical items still in the UK. If electrical appliances are equipped with internal fire protection solutions like E-Bulbs, manufacturers, and customers may not need to worry about fire-consequential damages from these recalled devices. 

The use of E-Bulbs can also protect against business interruptions or shorten the interruption time. Every third fire in Germany, for instance, causes over €500,000 (approx. USD 606,965) of property damage in industry, so much that the companies concerned can no longer recover. Only 23 percent of all firms affected by fire completely reopen their business again. While more than 40 percent of companies have to stop trading altogether after a fire 

Finally, Fiebig points out that insurance companies accept the importance of using electrical devices with device-integrated fire protection.
For manufacturers, this is about product liability and recalls cost insurance. For operators, it is relevant for fire and business interruption insurance. Insurance companies may consider reducing their premium if their client chooses to use integrated fire protection solutions. Given all these advantages, it is likely that a lot more electronic manufacturers may consider using such a solution.

However, they would also be wary of the overall cost. Although the first impression is that E-Bulb will reduce cost, customers would assess the bigger picture and compare the cost of possible incidents to the cost of using a new solution. 
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