Ever wondered how… fire sprinklers work?
A fire sprinkler system serves an essential role of active fire protection inside buildings, including factories, offices, schools, homes, etc. The job of a sprinkler system is to automatically detect and put out a fire within close proximity. As complicated a task as this sounds, the way a sprinkler does it is quite straightforward. Each sprinkler head that you see sticking out on the ceiling is actually connected directly to a water pipe that contains water under pressure. Before being triggered, each sprinkler head features a glass vial or bulb that applies sufficient pressure onto the pipe cap, which acts as a plug to prevent water from flowing out. The bulb is heat-sensitive, designed such that it breaks at a specific, pre-established temperature (68°C, for example). In instances when the predetermined heat level is reached, the liquid inside the bulb boils at exactly that temperature, increasing the pressure inside the bulb to break the glass and remove the pipe cap. The stream of water is, thus, allowed to flood out of the outlet, hitting the disc at the bottom of the head to form the sprinkler effect that consequently suppresses and controls the fire.
The fire sprinkler system is a classic example of employing the concept of predictable failure to effectively and reliably protect buildings from fire hazards.