Explain freon fire in a refrigeration plant.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Freons is another name for a group of chemical compounds called chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). A common use of these compounds is as refrigerants. Freons are also used for making some varieties of plastics. However freons have major effect on increasing the the greenhouse effect global warming. Because of this their use is being increasingly reduced.

Under normal conditions they are non poisonous and non-flammable. Because of these properties, they can also be used as fire retardants in fire fighting systems. However I am not sure if, as suggested by the question, freons can cause fire in a refrigeration plant or in any other place.

karigos | Student

During my professional life I was often involved in investigation of failures concerning refrigeration machines; on several occasions came across a type of damage which some called “freon fire”. They were explained as a direct reaction between the turbo-compressor rotor (aluminium alloy) and Freon 12 (chlorine-fluorine-hydrogen-carbon compound). The reaction products were soot (elemental carbon) and fluoride / chloride of aluminium. Underlying cause of the damage was the defect of compressor bearing leading to contact between the rotor and housing during the machine operation (abrasion of Al metal, formation of metal dust, overheating of the refrigerant, “ignition” of the reaction). Due to its exothermic character (releasing thermal energy) the reaction accelerates taking eventually course as “fire” with fuel aluminium and fluorine, chlorine as oxidizer.

jacqsomers | Student

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Thanks for the reply so far.  Let me explain my question better I work as an Jnr Engineer in one of South Africa's gold mines, due to the depths that we are working at we have a couple of refrigeration plants underground working on R134A.  About a year a go a fire started in one of these plants after the investigation it was reprted that the fire has started in the compressor of the circuit.  This was known as a Freon fire, what I need to find out is what the cause of this fire was.

versatilekamini | Student

Freon fire is a trademark for any of several organic compounds containing fluorine (fluorocarbons) and sometimes chlorine (chloroflurocarbons, or CFCs). It is nonflammable, nontoxic, and noncorrosive, they have low boiling points, which makes them useful as refrigerants. By the mid-1970s they were in wide use in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, as blowing agents for plastic foams, as fire-extinguishing agents, and in aerosol sprays. Evidence has accumulated that decomposition of CFCs in the stratosphere destroys ozone.

Depletion of ozone in stratosphere causes direct as well as indirect harmful effects Ozone strongly absorbs solar UV radiation, causing atmospheric temperature to climb to about 30°F (0°C) at the top of the layer, and preventing much of this radiation from reaching earth's surface, where it would injure many living things. Chloroflurocarbons, or CFCs, and some other air pollutants that diffuse into the ozone layer destroy ozone. In the mid-1980s, scientists discovered that a "hole" — an area where the ozone is up to 50% thinner than normal — develops periodically in the ozone layer above Antarctica. This severe regional depletion, explained as a natural seasonal depletion, appears to have been exacerbated by the effects of CFCs, and may have led to an increase in skin cancer caused by UV exposure.

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