Microtherm® for rail applications

Microtherm® for railway fire safety and comfort.

Passive fire protection for rail rolling stock.

Modern rail travel is fast, stylish, and comfortable.
It also has to be safe.

With the increased use of aluminium and composites in construction, fire protection for railway carriages presents designers with a stability and integrity problem due to the vulnerability of these materials at the temperatures reached by a fire.

Passenger safety in all areas of rail travel is of paramount importance at all times.

As safety legislation becomes increasingly demanding, the protection of passengers against fire represents a major design challenge.  Active fire protection by extinguishers can deal with small fires but once a fire gets hold these will prove inadequate.

The containment of a fire without damage to the structure of a carriage is achieved by means of a passive fire protection (PFP) system. This can sometimes be done with intumescent coatings but the most effective method consists of a layer of high efficiency insulation attached to the surfaces that are likely to be exposed to direct flame in the event of a fire. The challenge here is to use the best insulation possible so that the PFP system represents the lowest possible added weight and thickness.

Microtherm® stops heat even better than a layer of still air.  It is a microporous insulation that effectively blocks each of the main forms of heat transfer and because it has been designed to diffuse and scatter radiation it is much more effective than most common insulation materials at higher temperatures. It comfortably withstands the temperature of a fire and is completely non combustible.

At high temperatures Microtherm® is at least four times more efficient than conventional insulations such as mineral fibres or calcium silicate.  In a correctly designed PFP system, 6-8mm of Microtherm® has been shown in fire exposure tests to provide the same protection as 63mm of ceramic fibre insulation.

Our chart showing a Comparison of TCs for various insulation materials clearly shows that Microtherm® , as a microporous insulation, offers dramatically better performance than conventional insulation materials at high temperatures.

Weight becomes important for speed and operating efficiency. Furthermore, minimising the thickness of materials ensures maximum space for passengers and train personnel, particularly with respect to height.  A thin, lightweight, highly efficient insulation material ideally compliments the other modern construction materials in current use in rail applications.
Microtherm® PFP systems have been developed in partnership with the leading manufacturers of railway equipment around Europe and can now be found in a wide range of rail transport applications including metro, trams, regional railways, and also high speed trains.
It has meant that fire protection of bulkheads, structural walls, and sliding doors is possible with a minimal insulation thickness to meet standards such as EU45545 and ASTM E119.
A typical system to protect the underside of an aluminium floor, based on 6mm thick Microtherm® panels, will limit the rise in temperature of the floor structure to no more than 70°C above the general ambient temperature after 30 mins exposure to fire.

We can also offer full contact protection systems for laminated and foam filled composite structures. PFP systems for new materials can be tested “in house” in the company’s own purpose built fire test laboratory to demonstrate compliance with performance standards right up to hydrocarbon grade fires.

However, problems related to heat occur in other areas also.

Decorative bulkhead housing concealed exhaust system

Modern diesel engines are being designed to run at higher temperatures which in turn means higher exhaust temperatures.  When exhausts are routed within the structure of carriages to improve aerodynamics and aesthetics, a further design challenge is presented by the need to contain the heat and to limit the temperatures on outer surfaces.
Again, Microtherm® provides the ultimate answer.  The ultra thin, flexible, insulation panels occupy minimum space and add minimum weight.  The insulation is unaffected by vibration or thermal shock.  All components can be tailor made for fast, clean assembly.

Sections of an exhaust system during the assembly of the Microtherm® insulation protection.

Elsewhere, Microtherm® has been used for the insulation of air conditioning systems, for heat shields, for carbon particle filter insulation, and for the protection of accident data recorders.

Microtherm® can provide an engineered insulation solution whenever a thermal protection problem is encountered.

Why use anything but the best ?

Further information can be found in our downloadable brochure 'Microtherm - insulation for rail applications'.