Vehicle Fires – Electrical related

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Vehicle Fires – Electrical related

Dr Brown of Fraser George was involved in case heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court last week concerneing a vehicle fire alleged to have ignited due to an electrical fault.

Electrical fires can manifest through two (2) fundamental electrical phenomena.

• Joule Heating

• Electrical arcing

Joule heating

Joule heating, also known as Ohmic heating and resistive heating, is the process by which the passage of an electric current through an electrical conductor (such a cable or wire) produces heat.

Heat generation and dissipation from the cable/wire is proportional to

• The electrical resistance of the length of cable/ wire.

• The electrical current flowing through the cable/ wire.

So if say a cable becomes damaged in some way that the electrical resistance increases, heat generation within and dissipation from the cable will increase and in time if left unchecked the temperature of the cable will attain a point where the outer insulating plastic coating of the cable will disintegrate and ignite into flame.

Of course if heat generation continues, the metallic medium of the cable will transpose from a solid to a liquefied state, which then due to gravitational and surface tension forces will migrate and separate forming air gaps between which electrical arcing will manifest.

Electrical arcing

An electric arc, or arc discharge, is an electrical breakdown of a gas that produces an ongoing electrical discharge. The current through a normally nonconductive medium such as air produces an ‘arc plasma’.

An electrical arc is characterised by its highly intense white/blue light and extremely high temperature.

Electrical arcing will manifest wherever there are two electrodes between which a high energy, electrical charge exists, sufficient to ionise the air between. In simple words the air becomes a conductor of electricity.

So, say an electrical wire comes adrift from its termination point and the wire is charged with a sufficient voltage, an electrical arc will, most likely, manifest between the parting wire ends.


About Dr Robert Brown:

Eur Ing Dr Robert Brown (Robert) is the Executive Director of Fraser George and Associates Limited and is a Consultant and Forensic Engineer in the fields Electrical Electronic and Control Engineering.

Robert is an accomplished professional Electrical Expert Witness having prepared and presented many court compliant reports and presented oral evidence within the High Court, Crown Courts and County Courts.

Robert is a registered Chartered Electrical Engineer, specialising in the fields are control engineering, parameter data capture and accurate data ‘representation’. Robert graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a first class honours degree in Electronic Systems and Control Engineering and followed this by completing doctorate research in Electrical Engineering, again at Sheffield Hallam University where Robert undertook research studies in the field of Disintegration and Arcing in Electrical Fuses. Robert is now considered to be a leading world expert in the field of electrical circuit protection systems, the phenomena of electrical fuse operation and the attributes of clearing ‘fault’ electrical current circumstances. Robert has published my pure and applied research studies in peer-refereed journals and at conference.

In his spare time Robert is a Formula 1 motor racing enthusiast and enjoys outdoor activities especially hill walking and scrambling, golf and fishing. Robert is a brass band enthusiast, a tuba player and band manager of Hatfield and Askern Colliery Band. When time allows Robert also enjoys travelling and reading any books associated with travel and popular science.


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For further information please contact Robert via;

Email,…   or

Tel Land: +44 (0)1777 709175

Tel Mobile: +44 (0) 7976250624

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