Ignorance can cost a lot

March 17, 2011 at 10:30 am

The Incident
A group of college students went to Amravati on a study tour with their teachers. Once their tour got over, all of them stood at Badnera railway station to catch the return train. They started taking pictures using their mobile phones and digital cameras. To get a wider view, one of them, a young boy, climbed up a boogie of an oil tanker. Above his head, 40000 volts electrical line was passing through. As soon as he clicked for a picture through the digital camera, that 40000 volt current passed through the flash light in his body. The next moment his body was thrown up and on to the platform. With 50% burns, he was air lifted to the Keshavani Hospital, Mumbai. He died a few hours later.

The Concern
Now the main concern is that how many of us know or are aware of such dangers? Using cell phone in the petrol pump or gas station is a very common sight in India. In the user guide of cell phone, it is warned not to use it at the petrol pump, but how many of us really care to read the user guide and worse, avoid using it in spite of being aware?

Technical Reason
The reasoning behind the incident is that whenever the high electromagnetic waves radiated from the cell phone are more than the threshold to produce high static electricity, it heats up the air. Under these circumstances, if there is presence of any inflammable vapour in the air having flash point lower than the air temperature, it creates an explosion.

It's an earnest request to the people not to use camera under these situations or mobile phones at petrol pumps and while driving too. Most people are either ignorant or don't seem to care. Also, avoid talking on mobile phones while charging and when you are near high voltage electrical lines.

We hope that you don't wait to learn the hard way.

Rusha Patra
Research Scholar, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur


  • Jai Singh wrote:

    Nice read. I will take care next time onwards not to do these things. Thanks IM! Let everyone jump in here and give their own articles to make this a comprehensive information sphere to make us more aware. Jai Hind!

  • Hi Rusha, Thanks for the nice article. I wondered many a times as why the usage of the cell phone is prohibited at the petrol bunks, but now got a satisfactory answer. Still I couldn't figure out the reasoning behind that 'Electric shock through Flash Light' !! Please provide some more details on it. Thanks & Jai Hind

  • Hari wrote:

    Hi, this is a very nice article and an eye-opener for everybody. Thank you.

  • Hi Ritesh, I am not sure about the actual reason behind that electric shock through flash light, but I am explaining some details. Flash unit of camera contains a tube filled with xenon gas, where electricity of high voltage is discharged to generate an electrical arc that emits a short flash of light with a typical duration of the light impulse of 1/1000 second. An arc flash is an electrical breakdown of the resistance of air resulting in an electric arc which can occur where there is sufficient voltage in an electrical system and a path to ground or lower voltage. Now the electrical arc of the camera or flash light can ionize the air and as a result arc flash is occurring between the camera and the high voltage line and as a result the current flows through the minimum resistance path that is the camera and the body. Hope this will help you. Thanks and Jai Hind.

  • IM wrote:

    Thanks Rusha! This information is indeed very insightful. We hope that at least after knowing the reasoning, people won't show carelessness. We at IM pledge, we won't. Keep going!! जय हिंद !

  • pratik wrote:

    Really nice article.Sometimes ignorance is bliss, sometimes it costs a lot. But to learn and know gives you more edge in life. Rusha did a fantastic job to throw the light on very common concern. We all should do the same.Make the Indians more intelligent. vande matram.

  • Rusha wrote:

    Thanks Pratik.. Its always better to be late than never. Hope we will not ignore this in future. Jai Hind.

  • Science does the things it is supposed to do.... even a guy without camera shud not enjoy the breeze over there.... it may pull u up.

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