Equipment Failure Leads to Tube Furnace Overheating

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Type:  Lessons Learned

Publisher:  Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL


Topics:  Maintenance, Laboratory

Furnaces that are operated unattended should be equipped with an over-temperature protection device.

A tube furnace was being used when a smoke detector triggered the fire alarm in the building. The building was evacuated, and the fire department responded. The digital display on the furnace indicated a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit, however the inside of the furnace was glowing brightly, which indicated that the temperature inside the furnace was much higher. Insulation debris and sample powder were found inside and under the enclosure, indicating that the sealed tube had burst. The likely cause of the incident was equipment failure of the furnace controller or its associated temperature sensor. This failure allowed the furnace to heat in an uncontrolled fashion to reach a temperature where the sample decomposed into volatile components that exceeded the maximum pressure for the sealed tube and caused it to rupture.

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