Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 165–174 | Cite as

Case Study of an Aerosol Explosion and a Method to Determine Explosion Temperatures

  • Michael Fox
  • Richard Hastings
  • Scott Lovald
  • Juan Heinrich
Case History


A failure analysis case study is presented for a two-piece aerosol containing tetrafluoroethane, commonly referred to as Refrigerant 134a. A gentleman was preparing to recharge the air conditioning system of an automobile when the bottom exploded off the aerosol container, propelling the body of the aerosol container like a rocket, which hit the man in the eye and blinded him in that eye. The aerosol was never connected to the air conditioner, therefore backpressure from the air conditioner (AC) compressor was ruled out as a cause for the explosion. The objective of the study was to determine why the aerosol exploded. Several recently developed test methods were used, including two types of heat-to-burst tests and a puncture chamber to measure the pressure-versus-temperature behavior of aerosols. More common test methods were also used, such as water bath pressure tests, hydro pressure burst tests, pneumatic pressure burst tests, hardness measurements, weight measurements, metallography, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), and an accident scenario recreation. A semi-empirical correlation between the hardness and weights of the container bottoms was used to determine the explosion temperature and/or pressure. This semi-empirical correlation agrees in principle with an analysis of the explosion pressures using finite-element analysis (FEA). The root cause for the explosion was determined to be a lack of strength of the bottom of the two-piece aerosol coupled with heating the aerosol to temperatures significantly above room temperature.


Aerosol container Burst pressure Failure analysis FEA Predictive method 


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Copyright information

© ASM International 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Fox
    • 1
  • Richard Hastings
    • 2
  • Scott Lovald
    • 3
  • Juan Heinrich
    • 3
  1. 1.Chemical Accident Reconstruction Services, Inc.TucsonUSA
  2. 2.Materials Science DepartmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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