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Respirable effects of a spark generated plasma on carbon fibre

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Uploaded on Aug 16, 2010

This is the sampling part of the following experiment:

It was recently discovered, that when simultaneously burned and broken, carbon fibre reinforced plastic releases small sharp fibres that act as a respiratory irritant. These sharp fibres have physical properties highly reminiscent of asbestos. It was suggested that electrical abuse could produce similar results.
The objective of this experiment was to determine whether potentially dangerous levels of airborne fibres are released when carbon fibres are exposed to an electric plasma, as may occur naturally if carbon fibre composite is struck by lightning. An arc welder was used to produce an electric plasma, an air sampler was used to collect samples for analysis and a scanning electron Microscope (SEM) was used to provide images of the samples that were created during the course of this investigation.
The analysis showed that under simulated conditions, up to 955 times the safe airborne concentration for the more dangerous forms of asbestos were released. Asbestos was used as a comparison with respirable/inspirable carbon fibres due to their similar properties. The carbon fibres showed all characteristics of being a chronic health risk and were found in potentially hazardous quantities. Further research is suggested to determine the applicability of this hazard to real life situations.

Conducted by Sam Watson, Year 9.

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