Smoke detectors act as an essential early-warning system in your workplace, alerting employees to budding fires before they become to full-blown blazes. Every day, we place our implicit trust in smoke detectors to protect us in the event of a fire. Smoke detectors are everywhere, but in spite of how commonplace they are many people still don’t understand how they work. Generally speaking, smoke detectors fall into one of two distinct categories.
These detectors use a small amount of americicium-241 – a radioactive material – sandwiched between two electrically charged metal plates to ionize the air that passes through the body of the device. When smoke particles enter the detector the flow of ions is disrupted and the alarm is triggered. This type of detector tends to work best in cases where fires are actively flaming, rather than smoldering.
This second type of detector uses a simple light sensor to detect smoke particles. A small light inside the detector is pointed near, but not at the sensor. When smoke particles enter the chamber the light is reflected toward the sensor and the alarm is triggered. This type of detector excels at identifying smoldering fires.
Both types of detectors have advantages and drawbacks. Likewise, it’s best to use them in conjunction with one another to ensure fast, accurate alerts. Fortunately, you can find detectors that employ both types of sensors in one housing.
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