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Oxyreduct is a new product from Wagner UK that offers a novel solution to fire protection in critical areas.

Unlike conventional fire suppression, which reacts to fire after detection, Oxyreduct is proactive, preventing the fire by reducing the amount of oxygen in the air.

The reduced oxygen concentration is outside the flammable limits for most common hydrocarbons and so flaming combustion cannot occur. But the materials to be protected need to be considered - do they need oxygen to burn or do they have their own chemical supply? Smouldering combustion can still occur, but the system is suitable for most commercial purposes.

The oxygen level is reduced to 15 per cent, (compared with 21 per cent). Medical research suggests that humans are relatively indifferent to any effect at this concentration, with only minor effects such as reduced tolerance to exercise being observed. This can be counteracted by limiting exposure time or by raising the oxygen concentration during occupancy (consequently rendering the system ineffective in this time).

An advantage of the system is its ability to be retrofitted into an existing building. It can be installed with minimal disruption compared with other fire-protection systems. However, the building's fabric needs to be scrutinised for suitability, as the cost of air sealing can be high when added to the cost of the system.

Typical applications for Oxyreduct are the storage of flammable goods, IT server rooms, safe vaults, frozen or cool storage, telecoms, libraries, archives, automated car parking or goods-picking systems. It is purportedly cost-effective for IT applications larger than 1,000m 3 when compared with other fixed suppression systems. For other applications, installers indicate that the system is generally cost-effective compared with sprinkler systems, especially for retrofit.

There are more than 80 systems installed throughout Europe (where it was developed); in the UK, business has been steady, and there are now eight systems in operation. It has gained approval from the German regulatory body VDS, and LPCB approval looks likely by the end of the year. But Oxyreduct remains uncertified in the UK and isn't covered by British Standards. Insurance companies may therefore be slow to acknowledge the system, and premiums may be higher for Oxyreduct than for a conventional system.

Oxyreduct is an innovative and effective system that holds greater merits than suppression systems due to its preventative nature. But it must be considered within its correct limits and is best suited to unoccupied data-protection applications.

For more details, see www. wagner. de/english/index. htm

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