Why grain bins explode
Fri, 03 Feb 2012 17:27:09 GMT —
Sometimes things happen and there's just no rhyme or reason as to why.
Take for example a grain bin explosion that happened at the Warsaw Elevator back in September of 2010.
Two people were hurt when the explosion went off.
A similar explosion happened Thursday in Arlington Kansas.
One person was hurt, and dozens of people had to evacuate their home.
Read more about that accident here.
Here's why grain bins can be ticking time bombs in this Facebook Story of the Day.
"That's what causes a grain elevator explosion," says Robert Henry.
Robert Henry is an instructor at Wichita State University.
He explains that dust, oxygen and fire make an explosive combination.
Henry says, "Very similar to a bomb, basically it ignites just like gun powder would."
As Henry demonstrates with grain dust, a straw and lighter...the dust mixes with the air inside the straw...then it disperses...meets the flame and...
"When you get a large amount of surface area exposed to the flame, that's when it becomes highly explosive," says Henry
He says this is identical to what could happen inside a poorly ventilated grain elevator...when there's a spark
Henry adds, "Most of the material that you see in a grain elevator is inert it's packed like this, but in the process of milling the grain and transporting it around on belts and so on and so forth you get these tiny particles that begin to float in the air that's when it becomes dangerous."
Because grain dust particles are extremely small, there doesn't have to be a lot of it for an explosion to happen.
Henry says, "It's not really a chemical process, it's strictly physical. When you get a little bit of it and you disperse it in the air there's a tremendous amount
of surface area and that surface area being exposed to oxygen makes it extremely flammable."
So all a grain elevator explosion is...is dust in the wind meeting a spark.
You can see the demonstration from Robert Henry by clicking here.
(CNN contributed to this report.)