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New engineering capability for indoor large-scale fire evaluations available at SwRI

San Antonio -- November 15, 2006 -- A new 4,300-square-foot facility for fire engineering research and testing has opened at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®). The building, which enhances SwRI's fire evaluation capabilities, provides an indoor area for large-scale, full-on fires with a heat release rate in excess of 25-megawatts.

This is the third commercial test facility of its kind in the United States.

“We custom-designed and built this facility to expand our research capabilities and meet clients' needs for larger fires in a controlled environment,” said Nathan Weyandt, a senior research engineer in the Fire Technology Department for SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. “The facility has several exciting new features including an elevated control room for better monitoring and a height-adjustable ceiling for simulation of different-sized buildings. We also installed a pollution abatement system that can exhaust up to 120,000 standard cubic feet per minute of fire effluents during testing and remove particulate emissions above 1.5 microns with greater than 99 percent efficiency. Twelve symmetrically placed louvers allow air to be drawn into the building without producing asymmetrical air currents.”

The building has a 65 X 65 footprint and is 65 feet tall — large enough to perform a 10-foot diameter pool fire or a 50-foot-tall corner test. The room has a perimeter floor drain and a 40,000-gallon holding tank for liquid effluents. The fire suppression system is equipped with a 1,500 gallon per minute fire pump, supplied by a 30,000-gallon water storage tank. A 1,500-gallon foam agent storage container and associated equipment will allow the induction of fire suppression agents during tests.

The new facility will be used to conduct fire suppression evaluations, alternative fuels testing, gas analysis, heat release measurements and more for the construction, fire protection, transportation, chemical processing and other industries.

“This new fire engineering research and testing facility will give us state-of-the-art capabilities for indoor large-scale evaluations,” said Dr. Marc Janssens, director of the SwRI Fire Technology Department. “Previously, we were much more limited in the large-scale fire tests that we can perform on our grounds. Some evaluations could only be conducted outdoors at our remote facility in Sabinal, Texas, where testing is often delayed due to unfavorable weather conditions. An indoor facility will better serve our clients, as it will allow us to conduct evaluations all year round, without regard for environmental or weather conditions.”

SwRI's Fire Technology Department offers remote viewing access for clients. Tests are documented with digital video and additional options include high-speed, thermal imaging and ultraviolet imaging. A secure web site is available for clients to observe testing from any computer with Internet access.

For 59 years, the Institute has studied fire dynamics and developed unique engineering and scientific resources to address fire and explosion safety issues, serving both government and commercial clients in the construction, transportation, chemical and petrochemical, nuclear and telecommunications industries.

The SwRI Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division is certified to ISO 9001:2000, an internationally recognized quality standard. The SwRI Fire Technology Department is also certified to ISO 17025 as a component testing laboratory under ISO 17025, and as a third-party quality assurance agency under ISO 17020.

For more information, visit the fire technology web site at http://fire.swri.org.

Editors:  A photo is available for download at http://www.swri.org/press/2006/firetech.htm

 

For more information contact Tracey M.S. Whelan at (210) 522-2256, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.

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