The Smithsonian Institute

The Smithsonian Institute

The Smithsonian displays the Star Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the National Anthem in the Museum of American History. This delicate flag is a national icon and is irreplaceable. Ordinary fire detection and suppression systems could damage the flag in the event of a fire. The Smithsonian wanted a fire proof environment for the flag that would completely prevent fire – a low oxygen environment. After two previous vendors had failed to provide oxygen reduction systems that provided the proper oxygen levels or had otherwise not met specification, the Smithsonian brought in ACT.

The Smithsonian asked ACT to engineer and design a low oxygen system that would meet detailed and meticulous specifications. ACT had to integrate the system with a sophisticated Siemens air handler, and to over pressurize the chamber by exactly 2.5 Pa. Oxygen tolerances were 1/10th of 1%. The system needed to communicate with the building management system. Air quality had to be as close to perfect as can be found in the real world.

ACT implemented a completely redundant oxygen control system utilizing membrane air separation technology. Air was delivered through a state of the art filtration system that included refrigerated air dryers, UV sterilization, gas phase permanganate filters, activated carbon air filters, coalescing filters and two stages of particulate air cleaners. Highly sensitive sensors were placed in the duct work since they could not be located near the flag. Pressure sensors were combined with an air delivery system to ensure the desired over pressurization in the flag chamber. The system was designed so that any element of the system could be isolated for maintenance without shutting down the system. ACT created a unique approach to redundancy that included not only redundant equipment but cross over redundant capability so that even if both systems went down elements of each system could be combined to keep the system running. As it is no component has ever failed and the Star Spangled Banner remains perfectly protected.