Cone Calorimeter Fire Performance Evaluation

Sample SwRI cone calorimeter test report

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has the expertise and facilities to perform a variety of standard and custom fire performance evaluations required by industry. The most advanced laboratory device used for this purpose is the cone calorimeter.

  • Built and operated in accordance with ASTM E1354 and with the latest information from ASTM Committee E-5 and ISO Technical Committee 92
  • Can be operated in accordance with Cone Calorimeter application standards to evaluate specific types of products and uses:
    • ISO 5660-1 for heat release rate of building materials
    • ASTM E1474 and CBUF protocol for upholstered furniture
    • CAN ULC S135 for degrees of combustibility of building materials
  • Fire parameters obtained include rate of heat release, time to ignition, rate of mass loss, smoke-specific extinction area, and effective heat of combustion
  • Rate of evolution of toxic gases (e.g., CO, HCl, and HCN) can be determined
  • Results can be used in fire hazard assessment and in predictions of full-scale fire performance, through correlations or via computer fire modeling

The Cone Calorimeter

The cone calorimeter is a small-scale instrument that measures rate of heat release of materials under a wide range of conditions, using the oxygen consumption technique. A square sample of 100 x 100 mm (4 x 4 in.) is exposed to the radiant flux of an electric heater. The heater has the shape of a truncated cone (hence the name of the instrument) and is capable of providing heat fluxes to the specimen in the range of 10-110 kWm-2. Tests can be conducted in the horizontal and vertical orientation.

The cone calorimeter is one of the most sophisticated tools used at SwRI in determining flammability of materials.

Close-up of burning specimen in the cone calorimeter.


The SwRI Department of Fire Technology is accredited by the International Accreditation Service, Inc. (IAS), which encompasses the three major model building code jurisdictions in the United States, as a qualified testing laboratory and a third-party quality assurance and inspection agency in accordance with IAS Report Nos. TL-214 and AA-665, respectively. The Department has been designated a "Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL)" by OSHA and has been accredited in all major state and local jurisdictions throughout the U.S., including the city of Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County, and the city of New York. The Department has been accepted by the U.S. Coast Guard to provide testing and follow-up programs in support of Type Approval per the IMO FTP Code. Internationally, the Department is recognized by The Standards Council of Canada, Lloyd's Register of Shipping, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), and the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).

The SwRI Department of Fire Technology is one of the world's largest organizations devoted to fire research and testing.

For more information about cone calorimeter fire performance evaluation, contact
Eugene Horton, Principal Engineering Technologist, Phone (210) 522-3457, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510.

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