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Friday, October 30, 2009

Short Review of Workshops on Data Assimilation and Optimization, summer 2009

by Wolfram Jahn

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to leave temporally the world of Fire Safety Engineering and attend two conferences related to the non-fire aspects of my thesis work: data assimilation and optimization.

The 8th International Workshop on Adjoint Model Applications in Dynamic Meteorology

The first conference, organized by NASA and with NSF support (who also provided a grant to pay for my expenses), was held in the little town of Tannersville, in Pennsylvania, USA, and was the International Workshop on Adjoint Model Applications in Dynamic Meteorology(18–22 May 2009).

While most of the talks of this conference were way out of the scope of my thesis (and many of them incomprehensible to my 'engineering' mind), a few of them were closely related to my thesis work, and I could get some very interesting ideas from them. Additionally to the talks there was a tutorial session which occupied most of the first day of the conference. This was made for PhD students who use functional data assimilation systems for numerical experiments, rather than develop them on their own. The 5h-tutorial covered all the basics of data assimilation and adjoint modelling, and was very helpful in terms of getting my hands on the things I had read on DA in various papers, and it filled the gaps resulting from my still growing mathematical knowledge.

Group photo at the Adjoint Worshop

On the last day of the conference I presented my work in the poster session. Being the only person at the whole conference without a meteorological background, I got a few 'what on earth is he doing?' looks, but generally the idea of using data assimilation concepts in other areas generated a great deal of interest, and people were very curious about fire modelling in general.

Overall, this workshop was very interesting and useful, and gave me the opportunity to talk to the most prominent people in the field of DA (e.g. Ronald Errico, Ronald Genaro, Jeff Kepert). On my return to Edinburgh, I could apply some of the newly acquired knowledge and thereby greatly simplify my problem, which accelerated my progress significantly. One of the things I realized at this conference was the immense amount of resources historically invested in the topic: so many people have worked in Data Assimilation in the last 50 years, and so many more issues are yet to be resolved. Applying all these concepts to Fire Forecasting is certainly going to take a few more PhDs....

EUROGEN 2009, ECCOMAS Thematic Conference

The second conference was EUROGEN, on Optimization and Control, was held in Krakow, Poland in June. It was organized by
ECCOMAS, ECROFTAC, and CIMNE. The conference was mostly focused on industry problems of optimization, and the very broad range of topics presented in the conference made it difficult to find talks even loosely related to my research. However, after presenting our work on inverse modelling of fire dynamics, I did get very positive feedback and people showed a lot of interest (for some reason people get very excited when they see FDS snapshots).

Photo: Audience of one of the talks (I am on the right)

The eternal question of whether it is better to use gradient based optimization, or whether evolutionary algorithms are the way forward, was very present at this conference. Unfortunately no real discussion on the subject could be established, since each party is absolutely convinced that they are right, and therefore the discussion is not necessary (this actually seems to be accepted by both parties). Even after enquiring on both sides I did not get any useful arguments that would justify preferring either methodology.

It is absolutely necessary at this point to mention the excellent organization of the conference with a very nice venue, outstanding food and an extraordinary gala-dinner at the oldest restaurant in Krakow (established in 1364). Obviously the charm of this beautiful city added its part to the success.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Design Icons at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

by Prof. Jose Torero

As a Fire Safety Engineer, or someone who pretends to be one, I have many times complained that we work in a field that needs “Design Icons.” We have our icons in Fire Dynamics (H. Emmons, D. Drysdale, P. Thomas, J. Quintiere, etc.), we have our educational icons (J. Bryan, D. Lucht, D. Rasbash, etc.), we have our professional icons (B. Williamson, B. Nelson, etc.) and we have our design icon, Margaret Law. I unfortunately cannot think of any other design icon. I have enjoyed the immense pleasure of meeting or working with all of them but Prof. Rasbash, nevertheless I have always felt a professional void when it relates to design icons.

Today at the CTBUH 2009 Conference, I had a wonderful experience that made me feel humble and made me hope that one day our field will grow to be able to celebrate the achievements of three generations of design icons. I sat through presentations about structural design by Leslie Robertson, Charles de Benedittis, Gilberto doValle, Shankar Nair, Ron Klemencic and David Scott finishing with a presentation by Architect John Portman about architecture and structural design.

It was an afternoon that gave me something to think and forced me to reflect on the profession I chose. I have to admit that I felt envious of structural engineers but happy that we have a bright future ahead of us. It is in our hands to fill our profession with design icons, isn’t that a great privilege?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Congratulations for winning the 2009 Lord Ezra Award in combustion

Congratulations to the STAR team for receiving the 15th Lord Ezra Award for their innovative combustion technology to treat industrial soil pollution.

The award was given on 8th October 2009 during a lunch at the House of Lords, Westminster, by the UK Combustion Engineering Association for "outstanding achievement in the study of combustion engineering". The lunch was hosted by Lord Howie of Troon, Civil Engineer and MP.

The preceding David Gunn Memorial Lecture ‘Sugar the Energy Bill’ (Energy Efficiency at British Sugar) was presented by Paul Gardiner of British Sugar & Combined Heat & Power Association.

NOTE: this is the second Erza Award that goes to Edinburgh; Valentina Cvoro won the 2003 Derek Ezra Award.


History of the Lord Ezra Award.

The invitation to the Award Ceremony contained the following description of the award:

Lord Ezra was very keen that CEA should continue to support the industry through education and training. He wanted to add his own
personal support and commitment to that end by offering a prize to encourage new entrants to the industry and new innovation where possible. Thus, in 1995, the Lord Ezra Award was initiated and presented each year. By way of further encouragement and
equitability, the Award is open to a large field and entrants are asked to submit competitively based schemes in order to actually win the award. The meritorious entrant or entrants receive the Award every October in the House of Lords.

Combustion Engineering Association, on behalf of Lord Ezra, is proud to present the Award and invites entries from a person or group of persons in combustion engineering who have created or facilitated a benefit to that industry, especially through a new, innovative or novel nature.

Entry for the Award is by nomination and may only be made by Combustion Engineering Association Members. The award is not restricted to one student or person only but can be to a team, group or department for example, providing the members fulfil the entry criterion.

CEA is especially keen to receive applications from students, graduates or trainees new to the industry. The project entry should of course be concerned with combustion, combustion engineering and related fields.

Entries may be of a pure scientific nature or technological development in product, process or plant. Entries are also welcome in the area of fuels, energy or major cost saving and project management.

Accordingly, the following are the Terms of Reference for the Award: Qualifying projects should be innovations in either: planning, design, manufacture, installation, utilisation and maintenance of energy consuming industrial plant. The innovation should achieve a significant measurable improvement or benefit in any one or preferably more of the following categories :
Safety, Reliability, Durability, Longevity, Efficiency, Economy, Environment, Emissions, Technical, Product, Process, Plant, Fuels, Management."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Edinburgh's fire experiment made banner of a prestigious research images exhibition

Claire Belcher's photo of a fire experiment carried on at Edinburgh is featuring now on a large banner outside Newman House in Dublin, Ireland!

Image: Fuelling The Global Warming Debate

The image entitled "Fuelling The Global Warming Debate" is part of an research images exhibition put together by University College Dublin Research and curated by: The Irish Research Centre (at Trinity College), Gerry O'Leary (award winning photographer) and Willie White (Artistic director, Project Arts Centre). The image selected for the prestigious exhibition was taken during Claire's visit in 2009 and shows a burning monkey-puzzle tree branch inside the state-of-the-art Fire Propagation Apparatus (FPA) in the fire lab of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering. The experiments was being run by the PhD student Freddy Jervis.

The image is followed by the description "Global warming is expected to cause vegetation change. How these changes will alter wildfire activity is of increasing concern to researchers in the context of the threat to human life and ecosystems. This images shows the ignitability of different vegetation being tested using state-of-the-art fire propagation apparatus".

The UCD Research Images Exhibition 2009, part of Innovation Dublin festival, showcases a wide range of compelling images that have been created by researchers at UCD and their collaborators during the course of their research. The images on display have been submitted by researchers at all levels (PhD student to Professor), across a range of disciplines in UCD, from Arts and Human Sciences, to Engineering and Life Sciences. The Exhibition, which is open to the public, features the most innovative and imaginative research images that convey the depth and range of research taking place at UCD. The exhibition is being held over the next week at Newman House, 85-86 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland.

by Dr Claire Belcher (biogeochemist at University College Dublin working on mass extinction events, fire ecology, palaeowildfires, and ancient atmospheres).

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Dont bring death to your home"

Tayside Fire and Rescue is using rather shocking messages to make their point about safety go across the public.

This photos were taken in 2009 at the car park of the KB campus of the University of Edinburgh.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fire Engineering Students walk on fire

On the 2nd of October, five students from the BRE Centre of Fire Safety Engineering walked across 6 m of hot embers burning at over 650 °C to help raise money an event organized by the Edinburgh Zoo.

From left to right in the photo above, the brave and bold are: Nicolas Bal, Adam Cowlard, Adam Bittern, David Lange and Sam Grindrod

33 people in total walked across the fire raising over £7,000 for charities, with the fire engineers raising just over £500 themselves. The night involved a 1.5 hr training session which focused mainly on building confidence and focusing the mind (useful skills for research).

See video of Adam Cowlard walk (turn your head 90° to see it correctly):

by Sam Grindrod.