Maria Thomsen Solis, Carlos Fernandez-Pello
In practical applications a given material can be exposed to a wide range of scenarios and its flammability can change depending of the ambient conditions at which is exposed. Therefore, a material that is expected to be fire resistant can present different behaviors under different conditions. The focus of this research is to understand how these environmental conditions affect the flame spread behavior. In this research, a small-scale wind tunnel is used to conduct flame spread experiments over thin fire-resistant fabric samples or thermoplastics under a varied range of ambient pressures, oxygen concentrations, forced flow and an external radiant heat flux.
During each experiment, videos are recorded and then post processed to obtain flame spread measurements and develop Flame/No-flame spread boundaries. Such boundaries allow understanding the shifts in the flammability of a material as it is exposed to varying environmental conditions. Ambient conditions may change depending on location, application, etc., as well as during emergencies. Studying the flammability of materials over a wide range of ambient conditions presents a better picture of the flammability behavior expected in both, standard and non-standard situations.
Additionally, the research done for this project is funded by NASA and is done in support of the Spacecraft Fire Experiment also known as Saffire. This project is focused on two main objectives: the understanding of flame spread and growth of a fire in microgravity, and the investigation of low-g flammability limits to determine if NASA’s material selection standards are appropriate screening methods for low gravity flammability. The Saffire experiments (I, II, and III) intentionally light a large-scale fire inside an empty Cygnus resupply vehicle after it leaves the International Space Station (ISS) and before it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. Instruments measure flame growth, oxygen use and more, improving understanding of fire growth in microgravity and safeguarding future space missions.
A summary presentation of the current projects can be downloaded at the following link Spacecraft_Fire_Research