Safely storing and monitoring hazardous materials

Innovation project: Intelligent early warning system for hazardous material storage areas

Companies that store and handle hazardous materials such as flammable and poisonous chemicals must deal with risks to the environment and to the health of their employees. For this reason, these substances are kept in a specially designated hazardous material storage area. At present, automated monitoring of hazardous material storage areas is unreliable, complex and expensive, and therefore rarely used in practice. As a result, damage such as liquid spills cannot be detected until they have already occurred. This is often the case when drawing substances, as measuring and mixing is often carried out manually. There is a lack of solutions for detecting faults in hazardous material storage areas in advance, preventing their occurrence and avoiding spillage when drawing substances.

The aim of the project is to develop an intelligent early warning system for hazardous material storage areas. It also entails developing an intelligent hazardous material dispenser that allows hazardous liquids to be drawn safely, similarly to a coffee vending machine.

The early warning system includes a network of sensors developed to enable the hazardous material storage area to be monitored and predictive diagnostics to be performed. Sensor data is used to generate information about leaks, gas seepage, temperature and air quality that is required in determining the storage condition and identifying damage. This information is integrated into diagnostic systems in order to autonomously create fault notifications or initiate countermeasures such as temperature adjustments, ventilation or fire suppression. The intelligent hazardous material dispenser features a specially developed closed storage system in which the individual containers for different hazardous materials are connected to an outlet point via a system of pipes. Hazardous materials are measured and mixed through an intelligent human-machine interface that combines mechanical, electronic and materials handling components. The project draws on the results of cross-sectional projects in human-machine interaction, intelligent networking and systems engineering. A prototype of the early warning and filling system is created and validated.

The research project provides a long-term improvement to the safety and ease of handling and storing hazardous materials in the future. Measuring and drawing hazardous materials is made safe and accurate. Imminent damage is quickly detected and prevented by initiating countermeasures. Risks to the environment are avoided. The principles of the early warning and filling system can be transferred to other products such as complex warning systems in buildings, machinery or production units.

Project duration
01 October 2012 - 30 September 2015