A rupture disc, also known as a pressure safety disc, burst disc, bursting disc, or burst diaphragm, is a non-reclosing pressure relief device that, in most uses, protects a pressure vessel, equipment or system from overpressurization or potentially damaging vacuum conditions.
A rupture disc is a type of sacrificial part because it has a one-time-use membrane that fails at a predetermined differential pressure, either positive or vacuum. The membrane is usually made out of metal, but nearly any material (or different materials in layers) can be used to suit a particular application. Rupture discs provide instant response (within milliseconds) to an increase or decrease in system pressure, but once the disc has ruptured it will not reseal. It is not possible to set an accurate pressure value at which the disc will burst. Major advantages of the application of rupture discs compared to using pressure relief valves include leak-tightness and cost.
Rupture discs are commonly used in petrochemical, aerospace, aviation, defense, medical, railroad, nuclear, chemical, pharmaceutical, food processing and oil field applications. They can be used as single protection devices or as a backup device for a conventional safety valve; if the pressure increases and the safety valve fails to operate (or can’t relieve enough pressure fast enough), the rupture disc will burst. Rupture discs are very often used in combination with safety relief valves, isolating the valves from the process, thereby saving on valve maintenance and creating a leak-tight pressure relief solution. It is sometimes possible, and preferable for highest reliability though at higher initial cost, to avoid the use of emergency pressure relief devices by developing an intrinsically safe mechanical design that provides containment in all cases.
Although commonly manufactured in disc form, the devices also are manufactured as rectangular panels (rupture panels or vent panels). Device sizes range from under 0.25 in (6 mm) to at least 3 ft (0.9 m), depending upon the industry application. Rupture discs and vent panels are constructed from carbon steel, stainless steel, hastelloy, graphite, and other materials, as required by the specific use environment.
Rupture discs are widely accepted throughout industry and specified in most global pressure equipment design codes (ASME, PED, etc.). Rupture discs can be used to specifically protect installations against unacceptably high pressures or can be designed to act as one-time valves or triggering devices to initiate with high reliability and speed a sequence of actions required.