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Thursday, April 29, 2010

What am I doing here? A poem.

What am I doing here?
At first, I did not know.
Was it textile-reinforced mortars?
Or heating steel till it doth glow?

Well the later course, it was chosen,
But it needed something to make it differ
So that my interest and my desire,
Would be steadfast and would not wither.

“Fill the tubes with concrete”, I said
“And smother them with paint,
Load the damn thing axially,
and apply a prescribed heating rate”

I delved into the literature,
To see what others had discovered
The lack of understanding
Well my whole body shuddered.

The concrete that was tested
Was not of the highest calibre
Unlike today, where we reinforce it
With polypropylene and steel fibre

Now I wonder about modelling
Using computers for assistance
To see whether they can help us
Design more accurate fire resistance

I found that this is different
From anything done before
I hope I find my answers
In three years, well maybe four.

By David Rush, PhD student

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Event Horizon

April 22rd – two days after a massive explosion killed 11 people – a photographer captures the final moments of the Deep Water Horizon. The enormous oil rig, crippled by fire and eventually consumed by water, had been drilling an offshore oil well for BP (now investing $100 million in a massive cleanup operation).

Meanwhile the well continue to spill oil, producing a slick that could threaten coastlines along the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite the practical difficulties in doing so, the U.S. coastguard is considering setting fire to the oil slick before it reaches land.

ROVs have been sent down to the enormous 450 ton sub-surface valve but attempts to shut it off have so far failed. An investigation has begun to uncover the cause of the incident. It is unclear if there will be attempts to raise the DW Horizon from the seabed - now 1.5 kilometres down.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

ACI Spring Convention...

Every year, twice a year, the American Concrete Institute meets to discuss the latest developments in field of concrete construction and design. This year, the Spring Convention met in Chicago at the beginning of March. Spring had only just sprung, and visitors from around the world gathered to discuss new developments and improvements to the ACI codes and guidelines.

At every convention, the ACI 216 Committee discuss how the fire design guidance can be improved, updated and made more useful. This year, the committee meeting was also coupled with a presentation session where members of the fire research community could present their research.

Two members of Edinburgh's Fire Group made presentations at this Spring's session. Luke Bisby spoke about the performance of pre-stressed steel and fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) bars when subjected to fire, and I spoke about the use of interaction diagrams to predict the capacity of concrete sections during fire.

The following day, Committee 216 got down to the serious business of discussing the latest modifications to the ACI 216.1 design document. Chaired by the perennially entertaining Prof Venkatesh Kodur, there were no major changes either approved or proposed. Discussion centred more on the future direction of the code, and how it compares to other international fire design codes.

Dr Gillie (also from UoE) and Dr Bisby gave a 15 minute presentation on the Eurocodes, presenting the ideas behind the different design fires and the performance based design approach. There was some discussion of the relative merits of the design fire, E119, but also strong criticism of the Eurocode approach from some members of Committee 216.

As someone who had not attended the conference before, I was fascinated to witness the process by which a code is written. I was particularly struck by how long and drawn out the process of changing a document is. Not only were there disagreements between committee members as to what should be changed and how, but there was also the very long process of having the changes and their format approved by the ACI governing body as a whole.

I left Chicago with two conflicting feelings: depression at the pace of change in the States, but also a feeling of respect and optimism for what has been achieved in Europe. The Eurocodes are not perfect, and they have many limitations, unconservatisms and flaws; however, in terms of their philosophical approach, they allow engineers to think deeply and flexibly about the problems at hand.

By Angus Law, PhD student

Friday, April 16, 2010

Congratulations to Dr Abecassis Empis and Dr Jahn for their PhD thesis defenses

Congratulations to the two new Doctors of Philosophy from the fire group!

Cecilia Abecassis Empis successfully defended her PhD thesis on the 23rd of March 2010. The external examiner was Prof. Fred Mowrer from California Polytechnic State University, and the internal was Prof Dougal Drysdale. The thesis title is "Analysis of the Compartment Fire Parameters Influencing the Heat Flux Incident on the Structural Fa├žade" and she was supervised by Prof Jose Torero.

Wolfram Jahn defended his PhD thesis on the 8th of April 2010. The external examiner was Prof Bart Merci from Ghent University, and the internal was Dr Stephen Welch. The thesis title is "Inverse Modelling to Forecast Enclosure Fire Dynamics", and he was supervised by Dr Guillermo Rein and Prof Jose Torero.