The risk of fire or explosion is a defining characteristic of many hazardous areas on chemical sites – along with other specific risks like radiation.

In chemical processes, hazardous areas can be created especially through the use of highly flammable organic solvents, which can also be toxic and carcinogenic, as well as creating large amounts of contaminated wastewater.

Some of these risks can be tackled using hazardous area equipment, including explosion-proof equipment to protect against the risks of ignition.

Hazardous area equipment may also help to reduce human exposure to harmful chemicals, as it is often designed to be operated remotely or to have low or zero maintenance demands.

Professor Bruce Lipshutz of the University of California – Santa Barbara has been named the recipient of the American Chemical Society’s 2017 HC Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods.

His studies focus on finding alternatives to these high-risk organic solvents – such as reagents that allow a much smaller amount of the solvent to be used.

“I’m as hardcore and traditionally trained in organic synthesis as they come,” he said, adding that in many processes the solvent may be recovered and recycled, rather than simply being discarded.

In such processes, the environmental risks may be reduced, but the physical hazards of the solvent itself remain – making explosion-proof equipment an important extra protection against fire or ignition of fumes.