This project seeks to understand the firebrand ignition of building materials. It will relate the ignition propensity to fundamental material properties and characterize thermal and gaseous environments for various firebrand densities, wind speeds, external radiative heat fluxes, and exposure times. This knowledge will be incorporated into new computational models founded upon pyrolysis kinetics. For each building material selected for analysis, the structural materials are installed on a large-scale specimen section and subjected to piles of smouldering birch wood dowel pins that simulate glowing firebrands. Heat release rates (HRR) are quantified, and advanced visible and infrared pyrometry are employed to measure the ember and building material temperatures and the heat flux distributions. Large-scale experiments are primarily performed to evaluate whether the results derived from small-scale tests and modelling are reliable. These tests are performed with and without additional radiant heat flux to replicate impact of an adjacent fire front. Moreover, comprehensive 3D CFD models will be developed to predict the flow field effects on local velocity and oxygen mass fraction around firebrands, thus overcoming the limitations of current models. This project is a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, the University of Maryland, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) research institute.
Project timeline: 09/2022 – 03/2026