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Michael Fox, PhD.



Aerosol Propellant (propane/ butane) Fire - Spray Paint - Arizona

A woman was severely burned when a small wooden shelf, containing an aerosol can of spray paint, fell from the wall in her laundry room. Upon impact with the laundry room floor and being hit by the shelf, the can was punctured, thereby releasing flammable solvents and propane propellant, which were ignited by a pilot light in the gas clothes drier. The technical issues involved concerned identifying the manufacturer of the spray paint (the aerosol can was disposed of by the fire department) and determining the safety and integrity of aerosol containers.

Aerosol Propellant (propane/butane) Fire - Spray Paint - Arizona
Click photo to view video of  drop test. Allow time to download, then press play button.

 The Chemaxx scope included every conceivable aspect of aerosol spray technology and culminated in live fire tests at the Tucson Fire Academy to simulate the accident (seen in the attached video). Warning labels, DOT Regulations, alternative propellants, alternative aerosol materials and designs, and the costs to improve the safety of aerosol spray containers were primary issues. The scientific methods used included mechanical tensile testing of the can metal, metallography, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDAX), infra red spectroscopy, and simulated impact-puncture tests.  Through Chemaxx's on-going and continuing research into impact-puncture scenarios involving aerosols, a Super Can was discovered that has superior impact-puncture resistance. See the topic of Super Can for further details.

Dr. Fox is a Certified Fire & Explosion Investigator with extensive experience in metallurgy, corrosion and failure analysis who is also accredited in aerosol technology.. He has made presentations at national societies on the fire and explosion hazards associated with aerosols and was the first to publish a peer-reviewed paper on aerosol failures. He now leads the field in the number of peer-reviewed papers (8) on aerosol failures, fires and explosions. His aerosol-related paper in 2007 won the Paper-of-the-Year Award from the ASM Journal of Failure Analysis & Prevention. For further details on Dr. Fox's qualifications as an aerosol expert witness click here.