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Explosive limit

The explosive limit of a gas or a vapour, is the limiting concentration (in air) that is needed for the gas to ignite and explode. There are two explosive limits for any gas or vapor, the lower explosive limit (LEL) and the upper explosive limit (UEL). At concentrations in air below the LEL there is not enough fuel to continue an explosion; at concentrations above the UEL the fuel has displaced so much air that there is not enough oxygen to begin a reaction. Concentrations of explosive gases are often given in terms of percent of lower explosive limit (%LEL).

Controlling gas and vapor concentrations outside the explosive limits is a major consideration in occupational safety . Methods used to control the concentration of a potentially explosive gas or vapor include use of sweep gas, an inert gas such as nitrogen or argon to dilute the explosive gas before coming in contact with air. Use of scrubbers or adsorbtion resins to remove explosive gases before release are also common. Gases can also be maintained safely at concentrations above the UEL, although a breach in the storage container can lead to explosive conditions.

The explosive limits of some gases and vapors are given below. Concentrations are given in percent by volume in air.

Substance LEL UEL
Acetone 3% 13%
Acetylene 2.5% 100%
Ethanol 3% 19%
Octane 1% 7%
Propane 2.1% 9.5%
Butane 1.8% 8.4%


Last updated: 08-27-2005 20:14:33
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