How Does an Aircraft Nitrogen Generation System Work?

The aviation industry is one of the most regulated industries in the world, ensuring that flying by air remains one of the safest ways to travel on average. One of the biggest hazards that an aircraft can face is a fire occurring while in flight as flames can lead to explosions if they come into contact with tanks or systems that contain fuel. In 1996, a tragic accident occurred in which TWA Flight 800 faced an electric spark in one of the aircraft’s fuel tanks, leading to an explosion as fuel vapor and air was ignited. To prevent such occurrences from happening again, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) quickly mandated the use of fuel inerting systems to mitigate the flammability exposure of tank gasses. Fuel inerting systems guard spaces from combustion through the use of chemically unreactive substances, the most common being the inert gas nitrogen.

To supply nitrogen into an internal space, an aviation nitrogen generation system (NGS) will be installed, that of which produces pure nitrogen or nitrogen-rich gas that is routed into the empty space of tanks. As the nitrogen sits above jet fuel, it will prevent combustion through the basic concept of firefighting. In general, for a fire to occur, it requires a fuel source, heat, and oxygen. While heat and fuel cannot be removed from a tank without hindering standard operations, engineers can tackle the source of oxygen. This is where the nitrogen gasses come in, serving to replace any oxygen in the tank so that a fire cannot ensue. The process of displacing oxygen with nitrogen is known as nitrogen purging.

For the nitrogen generation system to function as intended, it follows a technique where air separation modules (ASMs) are situated within the fuel tank. With ASMs, bleed air collected from the engine compressor is collected to produce nitrogen-enriched air (NEA). This enriched air is then directed into the fuel tanks, displacing oxygen until it reaches a level below 12%. Once oxygen levels fall below this value, the chance of combustion occurring is very low.

While onboard inert gas generation systems are the most beneficial since they can be used during flight, there are times in which this is not feasible. When an aircraft does not have its own onboard system, it can use an on-site nitrogen generator. These generators separate nitrogen gas from atmospheric air through the use of a carbon molecular sieve or a polymeric hollow fiber. These components prevent anything but pure, dry nitrogen from passing through, allowing for the tank to be supplied with gas that exhibits a nitrogen purity value of nearly 99%. While this can save room and weight on an aircraft, onboard inert gas generation systems are known to be cost-effective, efficient, safe, reliable, and eco-friendly. If you are in the market for various aviation parts and are interested in procuring an aircraft nitrogen generating system, look no further than ASAP Fulfillment.

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