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Friday, April 24, 2009

1st Prize at Graduate Lecture in Fire Engineering

Many congratulations to Johan Hjertson and Sam Collins for beening awarded the 1st Prize at the 2009 Graduate Lecture competition of the Institution of Fire Engineers. Their MEng thesis is on the fire safety design for a building at high altitude and enriched oxygen atmospheres and included fire tests conducted in Puno, Peru, at 3801 m altitude.

This year the Graduate Lecture was hosted by Arup at their Solihull Campus, Birmingham.

The Graduate Lecture provides a showcase for the excellent research being carried out by Fire Engineering students in their Graduate year, with cash prizes awarded. The event attracts Fire Industry employers seeking to recruit, offering career opportunities for young Fire Engineers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Short report on the FRT09 Fire Retardant Technologies 2009

By Freddy Jervis, BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, The University of Edinburgh, UK

Fire Retardant Technologies 2009 (21 - 23 April) hosted more than 120 delegates and was held at University of Central Lancashire in Preston, North West of Manchester, UK. It was organized by Speciality Chemicals and Applied Materials Chemistry Groups of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The 3 day event showed 18 presentations and 22 posters and included optional visits to tour Leighs Paints Intumescent Coating Test Facility, Bodycote Warrington Testing Laboratories and UClan Fire Reasearch laboratories.

As can be inferred from the title, the focus of the conference was current research done and in progress regarding fire retardant technology. The overall organization of the talks was well planned, providing a solid introduction into fire retardant technology following with current and emergent technologies and then focusing on testing and environmental concerns of these materials. The conference focused heavily on the chemical side of fire engineering prioritizing on the interaction of molecules in the gaseous phase in order to prevent ignition and toxicity of these materials. Some descriptions were given on the current testing methods for fire retardant and various materials were presented showing how they perform in these tests.

Judging from the presentations I attended, the majority of the work being undertaken on flame retardants is on studying the effects on ignition of a small size material sample exposed to some sort of heating. There is a fair amount of research carried out on the toxicity of these materials and how these could adversely affect lives of people during a fire but the common consensus seems to be that as long as ignition is prevented, worrying about later effects should be less important. Some of the presentations did go into detail of how new materials are assessed describing this as a long and financially heavy process for new materials to be introduced as well as some aims in order to reduce toxicity, and the banning some of the halogen based materials currently used.

Overall, I did find the conference to be very informative on how fire retardants are currently established and implemented and some of the research undertaken. As I said before; however, due to a large focus being on the chemistry of the fire, little interest seems to be put on assessing the fire behaviour (e.g. looking at the flame spread rate). Although there was some results concerning the evolution of the heat release rate, all work was just at the small scale. There was some presentations that showed inadequacy of certain tests used to assess the fire behaviour of the material and its ignitability; however, little seems to be actually done in this area by the retardant industry.

I appreciate the financial support from BRE Trust and BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering to attend this conference.

Freddy Jervis