Measuring Yields of Toxic Gases from Materials during Different Stages of Fire Development under Dynamic Conditions, 01-R9905

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Principal Investigator
Christina Gomez

Inclusive Dates:  10/01/08 – Current

Background - Because more than 70 percent of deaths in a fire are caused by smoke, the study of the toxicity of various materials is of importance. This research project will explore the measurement of toxic effluents in a dynamic environment, as opposed to the typical static environment. The standard smoke and toxicity tests are currently run in a closed chamber where a sample is pulled from this closed environment for analysis. The gas sample is run through a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) to analyze various gas concentrations. The toxicity of the smoke is directly dependent upon the burning environment of the material. The cone calorimeter is an independent test apparatus that is used to measure the burning characteristics of a material under various thermal conditions. With a vitiated oxygen test enclosure, the cone calorimeter can also be used to measure the burning characteristics of a material under the conditions that are representative of the different burning environments of a compartment fire. This project will reveal the accuracy and limits of measuring the concentrations of toxic gases in the cone calorimeter via FTIR analysis.

Approach - The objective of this project is to obtain dynamic toxic gas concentration and yield data for a diverse set of materials under different conditions representative of the various stages of smoldering and flaming compartment fires. This objective can be accomplished by:

  1. Determining the effects of the vitiated oxygen enclosure on the sample burning environment.
  2. Integrating two independent systems (cone calorimeter and FTIR).
    1. Determining the ideal operating parameter for the FTIR and its components to maximize the rate at which toxic gas concentration data can be obtained
    2. Determining the lower limits for dynamic measurement of toxic gas concentrations flowing through an exhaust duct such as that of the cone calorimeter
  3. Determining the toxic gas concentration and yield data for a diverse set of generic materials under different conditions.
    1. Generic Materials - Fire Retardant (FR) plywood, non-FR plywood, brominated fiber reinforced polyester, polyurethane foam, flexible polyvinylchloride, and wool carpet
    2. Fire conditions - smoldering, well-ventilated flaming, small under-ventilated flaming and fully developed under-ventilated (flaming and non-flaming)
    3. Toxic gases - Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen bromide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen chloride, oxides of nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide.

Accomplishments - This project will determine the effect of the vitiated oxygen attachment on the sample burning environment. Data were gathered for six materials at 50 kW/m2 and 75 kW/m2 in the standard configuration and with the vitiated oxygen enclosure in order to quantify any effects that the chamber may have on the burning characteristics of the samples.

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