Concept Smoke

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How is the Artificial Smoke produced?

A. Inside your Concept generator the smoke chemical is heated above its boiling point and turned into vapour. When that vapour exits the heat exchanger and hits the colder atmospheric air, it expands and cools rapidly, condensing to produce the aerosol particle.

Q. What is the difference between a smoke machine and a fog machine?

A. Both refer to the same type of unit.  "Fog machine" is the term often used in the United States and "smoke machine" is the term commonly used throughout Europe.  

Q. Can I use any brand of smoke fluid in my smoke machine?

A. No - All smoke generators have a heating element that will reach a specific set temperature.  All smoke fluids (i.e. quickly dispersing or long lasting etc) have a specific & different mixture of chemicals. Each variation will have a different boiling range.  For example, a quickly dispersing smoke (mixture of glycol and water) has a relatively low boiling range, whereas a persistent smoke (usually a mixture of glycerine / purified water) has a much higher boiling range.  If a quickly dispersing smoke fluid is put through a smoke generator designed and set for a persistent smoke fluid, you can potentially over heat and crack the smoke fluid, this can form unpleasant and potentially toxic compounds such as acroleins and aldehydes).

Even changing the percentage of water in a mixture can have an effect. 

Several years ago, all the major UK smoke generator manufacturers (Concept included) prepared a joint letter stressing the potential dangers of mixing and matching smoke chemicals, stressing that the "generic smoke fluids" could not be relied upon to produce a consistent and safe smoke in every smoke generator. We stand by this principle.

Q. Do smoke machines trigger smoke detectors / fire alarms?

A. Even artificial smoke (if in dense enough conditions) will trigger ionisation / optical, aspirating (eg. VESDA) or video smoke detection systems.  "Rate of temperature increase" detectors would not be activated by artificial smoke.

Our smoke generators are often used by professionals for smoke detector testing. 

Q. Where to get an off power / battery / gas smoke generator?

A. We sell and manufacture several different types of "off power" smoke generators.  These include battery powered smoke machines (Concept B1 & Concept AirTrace), Gas powered smoke machines (Concept Artem Gun) & the famous Colt range that uses mains power to heat the high mass, precision engineered heat exchanger, but is fully portable with off power capability.

Q. What is Artificial Smoke?

A. The sort of "smoke effect" produced by Concept's generators is actually a fog or aerosol, comprising of millions of tiny liquid spheres. The refraction and diffraction of light through these particles creates a "smoke effect".

Q. How much pressure is behind the smoke?

A. In practise very little. Although the smoke has a high velocity, its pressure can be measured in terms of a few inches WG or a few kPA. If you want to pressurise smoke, or pass smoke into a pressurised compartment, centrifugal blowers or extended heat exchanger nozzles are generally required.

Q. What type of generator would you suggest for my application?

A. Every application for smoke is different. Please give us a call and we'll be happy to advise you on the most suitable type of generator for your needs.

We have a range of specific Application Notes available on request covering typical uses for smoke generators which can prove invaluable to those who are looking to produce a smoke effect, be it for airflow tracing, leak testing, building envelope testing, ventilation testing, fire training or security.

Q. Why is particle size so important?

A. Most smoke systems available today are derivates of machines used in the entertainment industry, where smoke concentrations are generally not required to be very high (i.e. the smoke is not very dense). In entertainment terms the smoke is generally used to enhance the lighting effects.

Generally, bigger smoke particles will settle in still air more quickly than smaller ones. A Concept typical 0.2 micron diameter particle will settle at around 8mm/hr, compared to 468mm/hr for an industry typical 2 micron diameter particle.

In terms of chemical usage, one also uses dramatically less chemical to achieve the same smoke concentration / visibility using smaller particles than larger ones, with corresponding benefits in terms of running costs and relative safety.

Q. How do Concept produce such a small particle size?

A. The vast majority of conventional smoke systems use cast alloy or aluminium platen style heat exchanger technology. These are effective, but generally produce a particle size in the range 1 - 5 micron. This type of heat exchanger has a low production cost.

Concept's own mains powered smoke systems use heat exchanger blocks with much greater density, machined to tolerances as low as 0.001" / 0.025mm. Concept's heat exchangers are guaranteed for "Life". The exceptionally tight tolerances that we machine to ensure a consistent particle size time after time, an order of magnitude smaller than most conventional systems.

Q. Can you colour Artificial Smoke?

A. Generally the most effective means of colouring smoke is by light. Smoke reflects light extremely well. A green light on a low lying smoke effect can give a very effective simulation of a chlorine escape, for example.

Q. How can we get low lying smoke?

A. Passing smoke through a long length of suitably sized flexible ducting will result in particle impaction, and a heavier resulting smoke effect.

Q. How safe is artificial smoke?

A. Concept have a comprehensive technical library, including independent reports analytical laboratories, research organisations and authorities ( such as the Health and Safety Executive) to demonstrate that the smokes produced by our systems represent the safest in their class. If you have a specific query relating to the suitability of artificial smoke for your application, please give our technical department a call.

Q. Is smoke effective outdoors?

A. Oil based smokes, such as the ViCount or Artem are dramatically more effective in external applications than water based systems. However, you are very dependent on environmental conditions. If the wind speed is high, the smoke effect is quickly dispersed. In these conditions, if a trail of smoke is required, water based smoke is particularly unsuitable, as it evaporates rapidly. Oil based smokes will leave a visible trail in all but the worst conditions.

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Surrey Fire & Rescue

"Reliability - We have three ViCount generators, two of which are at least 10 years old.  These are extremely reliable as is the new one.

Smoke Quality - Very good quality of smoke at all times providing excellent conditions within the fire house as required.

Running Costs - The amount of training provided from each drum is very good.

Sales Support - Always very good.  Whenever we have required assistance or advice there has always been somebody available to help. 

Just to confirm we are extremely happy with the service and support you provide!"