Every process involving combustible finely divided solids or dusts is associated with explosion hazards. Although detailed statistical records of dust explosion are not generally available, it is known that approximately 70% of the dusts or powders processed in the chemical process industry are combustible and ignitable. Data from the Heath and Safety Executive indicate one dust explosion every day in Europe, with damages from each incident in the range of millions of dollars, not including the damage and loss caused by injuries, fatalities, production stoppages, and marketing losses. In the United States, some recent incidents where dust explosions were most likely the root cause include incidents in Indiana (October 2003), Kentucky (February 2003), and North Carolina (January 2003). As stated by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board in regard to the June 18, 2003, dust explosion in Kinston, NC, there is a critical need for research to characterize the explosion behavior of dusts to make possible strategies for handling dusts safely and to minimize the possibility and severity and therefore the risk of industrial dust explosions.
Fundamental research in the field of dust explosions has been classified into dust cloud formation process, dust cloud ignition process, flame propagation in dust clouds, and blast waves generation by burning dust clouds. Preliminary results seem encouraging but there are still a lot unresolved issues that need to be investigated further. On the experimental front, large-scale tests need to be conducted on dusts that are able to mimic typical industrial explosion scenarios.