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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tisova Fire Tests - Week 1



The setting for the Tisova fire tests could not be more picturesque, cool crisp winter days near a river in the western province of Carlsbad, on an old coal processing site. Over the past week you would have found a small band of academics making holes in floors, ceilings, walls, and beams in one of the buildings located on this site 25 minutes to the west of Karlovy Vary (where we are staying).  Whilst this is a lot of fun, it is all in the name of research.  

Karlovy Vary at night from our apartment

The aim:

To understand the structural effects of a travelling fire on concrete and composite structures, both during the fire and residually after the fire has cooled back to ambient. We are aiming to run the test on the 28th of January.  

Who’s involved:

University of Edinburgh, Technical Research Institute of Sweden (SP), Imperial College London, CSTB, Lulea Technical University, Czech Technical University in Ostrava, MajaCzech, and the Fire and Rescue service of the Karlovy Vary region. 

When did we start:

Set-up on site started on the 13th of January with two members from SP (David Lange and Fredrik Kahl) marking out holes for instrumentation and setting up the lighting for working into the evenings.  Jamie Maclean and I (David Rush) arrived on site on the 14th of January having set-off from Edinburgh on the 12th with a van full of equipment.

The test building

What have we done so far: 

The first week has been mainly drilling holes through the concrete and composite slabs for the 60 plate thermometers, drilling into the concrete and composite slab at various depths to place 112  thermocouples, and installing the 56 thermocouple trees in the fire compartment.  On top of this we have taken out the internal steel partitions that were in the fire compartment, made many holes in the plasterboard partitions on the floor above the fire compartment to run cables to the data loggers, broken a sledge hammer trying to break through a bathroom floor and created a lot of additional dust.

Thermocouple trees inside fire compartment (Photo credit Dave Lange)

Trials and tribulations:

Jamie Maclean and drill
So far there have been few trials to speak of, the only two of note are locating the troughs in the composite slab so that we can accurately measure temperatures, and a delay in the wood supply due to the time that its taking to dry it.

What’s next:

Over the next week the numbers on site will swell to around 10, meaning that we can start hooking up the 700 or so measurement channels, placing the wood (when it arrives), protecting  the necessary cabling in the fire compartment, and install the remaining thermocouples and deflection gauges

Highlights:

Globus is a big positive for us with tasty sandwiches, coffees, and pastries that keep us full of energy for the long days on site.  Finding drill bits long enough to drill 650mm into a concrete beam from above, which we wouldn’t have found had it not been for the very helpful and patient English speaking lady at the local hardware store, which we have visited everyday so far with random lists of equipment that we need.

(Photos copyright of David Rush)

Friday, January 02, 2015

International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering




The application forms for the new intake of students in the International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering (IMFSE), are available online for a few more weeks!

Submission deadline: 9 January 2015 for scholarship applicants and 30 April 2015 for self-sponsored applicants.

The programme runs between September 2015 and June 2017.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Indexing Day at the Edinburgh Fire Group


For over five years, the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at The University of Edinburgh has been taking forward the Edinburgh Fire Digital Preservation Project. This project comprises the cataloguing, indexing and scanning of some 40.000 documents which originally belonged to the BRE Fire Research Archive.

Back in 2009, the Archive was relocated from its initial location at the BRE headquarters in Watford to the top floor of the structures lab in King’s Buildings, Edinburgh…a monumental effort! The overall objective of the project is to make the Archive’s content publicly available online. To date, documents uploaded to the online Edinburgh ResearchArchive (ERA) receive anywhere between 12.000 and 14.000 visits per year (not an negligible number for the Fire Science community). Many of these documents are not available anywhere else in the world, hence not available online.

The Archive contains a wide range of topics related to Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering (e.g. wildland fires, smoke behaviour, flame spread, fire dynamics, egress, structural behaviour, material science, combustion, and many, many more). Furthermore, the website hosting the Edinburgh Fire Group collections is the most visited website out of all of the Edinburgh Research Archive. To date, we've found some very interesting documents which include:
  • WWII Fire Safety Propaganda  found in our Archive is now exhibited at the NFPA museum and toured around the USA during Fire Prevention weeks (yes, the ones at the stair case in JM building are the copies of the originals).
This project is a venture undertaken by the Edinburgh Fire Group as a whole. The next step comprises a huge indexing effort in which all of us in the Group (academics, postdocs, PhDs, master students, undergrads, alumni, and friends of the Edinburgh Fire Group) will be spending a full day indexing documents from the Archive. This indexing task will be closely overseen by the Library Resources for the School of Engineering and the Edinburgh Research Archive, experts in indexing and cataloguing.

During Indexing Day, we'll have lunch, schedule coffee/tea breaks, and head down to the local pub in the evening. Up to date 28participants have signed up to join us on Tuesday 9th December. For those of you who haven't signed up, but are interested in participating, feel free to sign up.

Email c.maluk@ed.ac.uk for more information.     

       

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bang goes the Borders: Science Festival

Dr Carvel, ready to begin.
Saturday 20th September 2014 was the fourth "Bang goes the Borders" science festival, held at St Mary's School in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders. Each year the festival hosts researchers and scientists from several universities, schools and companies who present a variety of hands-on experiments, workshops and some demonstration experiments. Universities present included Heriot-Watt University (one of the event sponsors), University of Edinburgh, Newcastle University, and Glasgow University. Glasgow Science Centre were there too.

For the first time, a member of the fire research team from Edinburgh (me) was there to do some fiery demonstrations. We've been involved in a few 'public engagement' events in the past, but I've never tried to do fire experiments, outside, in such a way as to be entertaining, interesting, and safe. For this, my first attempt, the weather was very much on my side. There was little in the way of wind and the light rain earlier in the day had ensured that the grass around where I was going to be burning things was nicely damp.

The question I had to address in advance was what sort of fire experiments I could do to engage primary age kids (6-12 years old) and their parents? Having happened upon a quantity of 'Swedish Torches' (logs with cuts in them) in a local garden centre earlier in the summer, I decided to use these as the basis of my presentation: 

Question: Logs don't burn by themselves, 
so why do they burn by themselves when 
all that's been done to them is a few cuts?


The answer involves explaining the relationship between fire, air and heat. In other words, the classic 'fire triangle', although I don't think I used that phrase while explaining things.

With two chunky logs quite happily burning away beside me, I asked the audience if they thought a inch thick stick of wood would burn by itself. Most of the kids said no, and they were right. I tried setting fire to the stick with a blowtorch and it self-extinguished as soon as the burner was removed. What I discovered at that point is that primary age kids think blowtorches are awesome. If I'd just randomly set things on fire with the blowtorch for half an hour, they'd have been happy. Anyway, I had three progressively thinner sticks with me as well. Do they burn by themselves? Most of the audience thought the two thinner sticks would burn in isolation. They were wrong. So why does a chunky log burn, but a thin stick doesn't? With a bit of hinting, the kids guessed that the answer was something to do with heat. Result.

Now to wow them with the effects of airflow on a fire. Spinning a small pool of heptane on a turntable has little effect on the burning behaviour, but put a wire mesh around it and spin, and you get a fire tornado. Simple and effective. There were literally gasps of excitement from the younger members of the audience.

Now, having explained the influences variations in airflow and heat flow can have on a fire's burning behaviour, we were ready for the big fire test of the day. I had two identical wooden cribs (a regular arrangement of wooden sticks), about 20cm x 20cm square and about 15cm high. One was going to be burning outside, the other was placed inside a 40cm x 40cm x 40cm wooden box; the lower half of the front of the box was open. I ignited both with the blowtorch and got them to about the same stage of burning. We were going to have a race.

I ran the demos three times during the day and each time about half of the audience thought the 'outside crib' was going to grow faster, while the other half thought the 'inside crib' was going to win the race.

Each time we ran the race, the outside crib showed early promise, clearly being the bigger fire after about three minutes, due to a plentiful supply of air. Meanwhile the inside crib was growing at a slower rate, due to restricted airflow, but retaining its heat for future use. After about five minutes of burning, the inside crib grew rapidly in size and clearly overtook the outside crib in terms of fire size. Then the box went to flashover and decisively won the race.


(Following flashover, the back of the box fell off, venting and cooling the fire; this was intentional and made the fire much easier to extinguish after the experiment...)

These fires were watched by a good number of interested and well behaved kids; perhaps the fire safety engineers or fire scientists of the future! I hope they learned something. Certainly they were entertained.

The greatest feedback I had on the day was from a boy of about 8 years old who shouted across the field at me towards the end of the day:
"Hey mister! Great show this morning! I'll come back again next year..."
I think I might go again next year. I wonder what different tests I can do?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Concrete in Fire Forum, Autumn 2014


The BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering is happy to announce that next installment of the Concrete in Fire Forum, in conjunction with The Concrete Society, will be hosted at the University of Edinburgh.

When: 10.30 am Monday 17th November 2014 (we will finish around 4pm)
Where: Seminar room, Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions (CSEC), University of Edinburgh, Erskine Williamson Building, The King's Buildings, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3JZ, United Kingdom
               Location info: https://www.csec.ed.ac.uk/contact-us
               Map: http://www.ed.ac.uk/maps?building=erskine-williamson-building 
Cost: £Free 

What is being presented?
  • Use of expert elicitation for probabilistic analysis of concrete structures in fire (Ioanna Ioannou, UCL)
  • Closed-form formulation of travelling fires in large enclosures and comparison of the peak temperature location along concrete and steel beams (Egle Rackauskaite, Imperial)
  • The Study of Concrete in Fire: An Overview of the Thermal Exposure (Cristian Maluk, Edinburgh)
  • Introducing The IFE Special Interest Group on Fire Resistance (Panos Kotsovinos, Arup)
  • Fire Tests for Tunnel Linings (Tom Lennon, BRE)
  • Punching shear of flat reinforced-concrete slabs under fire conditions (Holly Smith, Edinburgh)
  • Title to be confirmed (Nicolas Pinoteau/Pierre Pimienta, CSTB, France) 
Can I come? 

Yes you can, please email d.rush@ed.ac.uk for more details and to signify interest in the event.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Edinburgh Researchers Featured in USDA Forest Service Video Spotlight



Researchers from the Fire Group, involved in a project on wildland fire behavior in the context of hazardous fuel reduction treatments, have recently been featured in a video put together by the USDA Forest Service. The video highlights several aspects of the experimental fire which was carried out in New Jersey, USA earlier this year. Particular focus is put on efforts to better understand and characterize the generation of firebrands in a wildland fire. This aspect of the project is of significant interest to Edinburgh researchers, and associated work aimed at understanding the ignition of structures due to firebrand accumulation is being carried out in the Rushbrook Fire Laboratory, under the guidance of Prof. Albert Simeoni, with the support of the American Wood Council.


UPDATE!! UPDATE!!


Our experiment in NJ featured today in the Wildfire Today blog.