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Abstract

Research was carried out to develop improved protection guidelines for silane handling systems through enhanced understanding of the behavior of releases of this pyrophoric gas. The approach involved addressing three aspects of the problem: the prompt ignition behavior of silane; the reactivity characteristics of quiescent silane/air mixtures; and the rates of reaction of silane leaked into enclosures with and without explosion venting, in the presence of ventilation air flow. A first conclusion, reached from tests in a ventilated cabinet, was that, contrary to prevailing belief, the ventilation flow has no measurable effect on the prompt ignition of the release. From experiments in a 5.1-liter (311-in.3) sphere it was found that silane/air mixtures of concentrations between 1.4 and 4.1% (by volume) are explosive but stable. In this case, piloted ignition tests yielded laminar burning velocities up to 5 m/s (1000 ft/min). Mixtures between 4.5 and 38% (the maximum reached in the tests) were found to be metastable, and would undergo spontaneous ignition after a delay ranging from 15 to 120 seconds, with the shorter values corresponding to higher silane concentrations. Experiments were also performed in a 0.645-m3 (22.8-ft3) vessel both with and without explosion venting, to measure the rates of energy release associated with impulsively-started silane leaks from 1/8 and 1/4-in. (3.2 and 6.4-mm) lines. A method for the prediction of the venting requirements of partial-volume deflagrations (PVD) was evolved into a tool to quantify the pressure rise from ignition of silane leaks in enclosures. These results represent a significant step toward updating existing design recommendations which prescribe ventilation requirements that are based on outdated and, in some instances, misinterpreted data.