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A STUDY INTO THE PHENOMENON OF

BACKDRAUGHT

A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED AS PART OF

THE B.Eng (Hons) DEGREE COURSE

IN FIRE ENGINEERING

BY

P.M. COURTNELL.

DEPARTMENT OF BUILT ENVIRONMENT

THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL LANCASIDRE.

DATE MAY 1998.


CONTENTS

CHAPTER TITLE PAGE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Vill

SUMMARY ix

1. INTRODUCTION 1

2. FLASHOVER and BACKDRAUGHT. 6

2.1 Development of a Compartment Fire. 6

2.2 Definitions of Flashover and Backdraught. 10

2.2(i) Flashover. 10

2.2(ii) Backdraught. 12

2.3 The Concepts of Giselsson and Rosander with

regard to Compartment Fire. 16

2.3(i) Over and Under Pressure. 16

2.3(ii) Lean Flashover. 17

2.3(iii) Rich Flashover. 19

2.3(iv) Hot Rich Flashover. 19

2.3(v) Delayed Flashover. 19

2.3(vi) Energy Rich Combustion Gases in Ambush. 20

1
3. A CONCEPTUAL APPROACH TO THE

FLASHOVERANDBACKDRAUGHT

PHENOMENA. 22
3.1 Semenov's Theory. 22

3.2. Quasi-Steady State Theory for Compartment

Fires. 27

3.2(i) Quasi-Steady State Analysis of

Flashover. 34

3.2(ii) Quasi-Steady State Analysis of

Backdraught. 37

3.3 Modelling of a Backdraught. 38

3.3(i) Mathematical Description of a Gravity

Current 40

4 CHEMICAL KINETICS VERSUS

DIFFUSION. 44

4.1 Rates of Flame Propogation 47

4.1(i) Influence of Fuel Oxidant Ratio. 48

4.1(ii) Influence of the Type of Fuel. 49

4. 1(iii) Influence of Pressure. 50

4.1(iv) Influence of Initial Mixture Temperature. 50

4.1(v) The Effect of Turbulent Pre-mixed Flames. 52

ii
4.2 What's Burning? 52

5 EXPERIMENTAL EQUIPMENT. 54

5.1 Introduction 54

5.2 Equipment 55

5.2(i) Giselsson Box 55

5.2(ii) Video Camera Footage 56

5.2(iii) Fire Box 57

5.2(iv) Thermal Imaging 59

5.2(v) Thermocouples and Data Logger 61

~ EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS 62

6.1 Giselsson Box 62

6.1(i) Introduction 62

6.1(ii) Analysis of the Results from the Giselsson

Box. 64

6. 1(iii) OveraU Combustion Reaction of Propane

with Oxygen(Air). 65

6.1(iv) Calculation of the Volume Flow Rate Into

the Tank (Experiment 1). 67

6.1(v) The Upper Explosive Limit

(U.E.L-Experiment 2) 67

6.1(vi) Stoichiometric Volume of Air(Experiment 3) 68

6. 1(vii) Backdraught Simulation Experiments. 68

6.1(viii) Estimation of the Percentage VoW01 of

iii
Propane prior to Ignition 69

6.1(ix) Fleischmann's Gravity Current 71

6.1(x) Calculation of Infiltration of Ambient Air 73

6.1(xi) Assumption of Dilution Ventilation 76

6. 1(xii) Ventilation Flow Rates and Time to Ignition 77

6. 1(xiii) Rates of Flame Propogation 79

6.2 Discussion of Results 80

6.2(i) Ghosting Flames and other Effects 83

6.2(ii) Ventilation Factor 85

6.2(iii) Rates of Flame Propogation 86

6.2(iv) Fire Box 87

7 CONCLUSIONS 90

APPENDICES 96
Appendix A Flammability Limits 96

AppendixB Glossary of Terms 97

Appendix C Chemical Analysis 98

AppendixD Temperatureffime Graphs for the Fire Box. 102

AppendixE Photographs of the Giselsson Box. 103

AppendixF Thermal Images. 104

Appendix G Photographs of the Fire Box 105

REFERENCES. 100

BIBLIOGRAPHY 109

IV
ILLUSTRATIONS AND TABLES

ILLUSTRATIONITABLE TITLE

PAGE

Figure 1 Typical Time Temperature History of a 8

Compartment Fire

Figure 2 Under and Over Pressure of a Fire 16

Compartment

Figure 3 Heat Losses Versus Heat Gains for an 23

Exothermic Reaction

Figure 4 Affect of Wall Composition and Geometry 25

Upon Reaction Rate

Figure 5 The Affect of Different Initial Vessel 26

Temperatures Upon Reaction Rate

Figure 6 Energy Balance for a Compartment Fire 29

Figure 7 Heat Release for Ventillation Controlled 32

Compartment Fires

Figure 8 Thermal Balance for Quasi-Steady State 33

Analysis of a Compartment Fire

Figure 9 Quasi-Steady State Analysis of Flashover 35

Figure 10 Ventillation Induced Flashover 36

v
Figure 11 Quasi-Steady State Analysis of 37

Backdraught

Figure12 Horizontal Box Model of a Gravity Current 41

Figure 13 The affect of Fuel/Oxidizer Ratio on Flame 49

Speed

Figure 14 Influence of the Type of Fuel 49

Figure 15 Influence of Fuel Temperature 50

Figure 16 Relationship for Methane,Ethane and 51

Propane

Figure 17 The Giselsson Box 55

Figure 18 The Fire Box 64

Figure 18a Section and Side View of Fire Box 57

Figure 19 Graph of Ventillation Factor to Time of 77

Ignition

Table 1 Results 63

Table 2 %VN Propane 69

Table 3 Ventillation Flow Rates 77

Table 4 Flame Speeds 78

VI
PHOTOGRAPHS AND CHARTS

TemperaturelTime History of the Fire

Box l02a-102g

Photographs of the Giselsson Box l03a-103b

Thermal Images

i)Fire Box l04a-104b

ii)Giselsson Box l04c

Photographs of the Fire Box l05a-105b

Vll
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks must be given)o the following people for their invaluable assistance during the

course of this dissertation. Members of Greater Manchester Fire Service, namely L.Fm

Chris Killeen and Sub.Off Alan Cleasby of the Breathing Apparatus School. Also Fm

Phil Sweeney of the video production unit at Thompson St Training Centre.From the

University of Central Lancashire, the research student Tsz Man Yau who provided the

technical expertise in use of the data logger and associated equipment. Thanks must also

go to Mrs F.E. Courtnell for assistance in typing of the dissertation and Mrs C.M.

Courtnel1 for proof reading.

viii
SUMMARY

The purpose of this dissertation is to review the current knowledge of the phenomenon of

backdraught. The review begins by examining early references to such an occurrence and

continues to present day where modern building practices have made the likelihood of an

event of this nature more probable. As a result the terms of backdraught and flashover

have been brought to the fore in the training of fire service personnel.

The definitions of both backdraught and flashover are then examined, particularly in

consequence of the concepts introduced by Giselsson and Rosander of the Swedish Fire

and Rescue Service. Training techniques introduced by these authors to the British Fire

Service has brought about the use of their conflicting terminology with that used by fire

scientists.

The dissertation then considers the Modelling of a backdraught condition. Theories of

Thomas et al for quasi-steady state analysis are examined and the mechanistic theories of

C.M.Fleischmann. This introduces the experimental part of the dissertation where the

application of a gravity current model is considered.

The dissertation concludes by examination and discussion of the experimental results,

where it is proposed that the use of a gravity current in the mechanistic theory of a

backdraught is restricted to scenarios where the geometry of the compartment is similar to

those used in C.M.Fleischmann's work.

IX
1. INTRODUCTION.

One of the earliest references to the backdraught phenomenon dates from as early as

1914. The National Fire Protection Association (N.F.P.A.) quarterly ran an article

describing backdraught as a dust explosion caused by carbon particles (soot) in the

smoke.

In Britain one of the first references was made by the former Chief Fire Officer of

London Fire Brigade, Sidney Gompertz Gamble as reported by Paul Grimwood[ 1].

In his book of 1931 , "Outbreaks of frre, Their Causes and Means of Prevention". He

describes backdraught in the following manner;

"Backdraught is the sudden ignition of inflammable dust in the air caused by organic

substances that have become heated by the frre. Owing to a lack of oxygen,

combustion is delayed until a window is broken or a door opened. When the inrush

of cold air containing its oxygen causes the sudden ignition of the heated air and an

outburst of flame with such force as to give the effect of an explosion ... . a dense

mass of black smoke is usually seen issuing from the building a few moments before

an outburst of this kind occurs".

The above statement clearly demonstrates the recognition of backdraught

phenomenon occurring with some compartment frres some 70 years ago. It implies

that this phenomenon is due to inadequate ventilation of a compartment and is

recognised by the frequent presence of dense smoke. However, it does not make

clear whether ignition of the flammable decomposition products occurs through pilot
ignition or auto-ignition and the affects that temperature of the decomposition

products may have on the resulting magnitude of the backdraught.

The term backdraught was brought into the public eye after the Universal Studios

motion picture release of that name, in 1991. However, other events in the real

world had already resulted in the inclusion of backdraught awareness in the training

of personnel in many fire brigades at some level. Significantly, the 1973 mattress

store fIre at Chatham Dockyard, in which, tragically two fuemen lost their lives.

Following this tragedy a literature survey was completed by W.M. Croft with regard

to fues involving explosions. This review covered both the United Kingdom and the

United States. The findings may be summarized as follows [2]:-

1. More explosions were associated with developing fues than with smoldering

fIres , although the percentage difference was small, 45% versus 41 %.

2. A large number of fire fighting personnel were killed in explosions associated

with smoldering fues due to personnel entering the premise believing the fire to be

suppressed or extinguished due to lack of oxygen.

3. The most likely purpose group for a premise where smoke explosions may be

expected to occur is either a factory or warehouse.

4. More explosions resulted from cellulosic material than any other type of material.

However, it should be borne in mind that this could also be due to the pattern of

usage of such materials, at the time of study, rather than a particular characteristic.

2
More recently, and perhaps more poignantly for fire fighters, was the terraced house

fire of 14 Zephaniah Way, Blaina, Gwent in which two fIre fIghters were killed on

the 1st February 1996. This fire was important for many reasons . Investigation into

the incident by Dr. Martin Thomas [3] and the Fire Experimental Unit concluded that

the phenomenon that killed the fire fighters was indeed a delayed backdraught . This

incident also highlighted that backdraught scenarios were not confIned to

commercial properties such as warehouses as suggested by Croft' s literature review,

reported in the Fire Safety Journal of 1980 [2] . Indeed the fIre of Zephaniah Way

emphasized the change in modern building materials and practices which

inadvertently create conditions that are ideally suited for the formation of

backdraughts within the premise.

Modern buildings are continually being better insulated and the use of plastic

materials and man made organic based fibres are used ever increasingly. Coupled

with modern double glazed window units and close fItting draught free doors, many

domestic premises are now unable to 'breathe' by natural ventilation in the event of

a fire.

Thus, a developing compartment fire with minimal ventilation will eventually

consume most of the oxygen within the room suppressing combustion and possibly

extinguishing it, with perhaps a still glowing ember. The hot gases of combustion

will also descend from ceiling height eventually filling the compartment helping to

extinguish the fire. The lower oxygen content prevents complete combustion of the

3
ever diminishing fue and further pyrolysis products are produced by the fuel,

continually undergoing pyrolysis due to the heat energy within it from the earlier free

burning fire. If a new source of air (oxygen) is then introduced to the compartment,

the fue may be rekindled, or the hot embers act as an ignition source, to the

potentially highly flammable mixture within the compartment, comprising of

partially unburned pyrolysis products. The ignition of these gaseous pyrolysis

products may be rapid and cause a deflagration within the compartment which may

possibly, in some instances, be severe. This scenario is defmed as a backdraught.

From the above we may see that Fire Scientists and Fire Brigades have over recent

years become more aware of the possible hazards of a backdraught occurring when

tackling compartment fires within a building, or indeed the whole building if smoke

logging is severe. Since the Zephaniah Way incident of 1996 and the subsequent

Health and Safety Executive improvement notice issued to the Gwent Fire Authority

(July 1996), the terms 'backdraught' and 'flashover' are used frequently in the

training of fire fighters.

There is at present some confusion appertaining to the definitions of 'backdraught'

and 'flashover' . The two terms do not describe the same phenomenon [4] . Indeed

training within the Swedish Fire and Rescue Service based upon work of Giselsson

and Rosander used defmitions which are not in total agreement with those used by

British and American Fire Scientists.

4
The aim of this study is a review of the current knowledge of both flashover and

backdraught to endeavour to reach a better understanding, consideration being given

to the concepts of Giselsson and Rosander.

Theoretical models are also considered with a view to predicting the time for a

backdraught condition to be realised once a compartment is vented. In particular the

concept of a gravity current as proposed by C.M. Fleischmann is analysed. The

experimental part of the dissertation is then concerned with the practical application

of Fleischmann's work and comparisons are made with models for describing the

ingress of fresh air into a compartment by infiltration and natural dilution ventilation.

The measurement of flame speeds is also considered to assess whether any

relationship exists between flame speed and the incoming gravity current.

5
2. FLASHOVER AND BACKDRAUGHT.

2.1 Development of a Compartment Fire.

When considering a compartment fire we are describing the development of a fire

within the room of a building or a similar enclosure. In most instances we consider

room volumes of up to 100 m 3 , any larger and the geometry of the room will greatly

affect the fire development [4] due to the subsequent development of any hot gas

layer at ceiling level.

The first stage of any fire is the ignition of a combustible material. This fire will

then grow in size as it develops, chiefly as a result of flame spread across the surface

of the item first ignited. During this period the fIre behaves as though it is burning in

the open, and if ventilation within the compartment is adequate the fIre will continue

to grow.

Eventually the fIre will reach a size when the confmes of the compartment will have

an effect upon the fire's development. Hot gases from combustion rise to collect

below the ceiling, their buoyancy forming a ceiling jet that forces them radially

outward from the fire plume. Upon reaching the confines of the compartment (walls)

this ceiling jet flow is forced downwards against its natural buoyancy eventually

causing the thickening of a hot gas layer at ceiling level. At this initial stage of fire

growth the rate of burning is fuel controlled. However, as the fire continues to

6
develop, and if there is sufficient fuel and mechanisms exist for fue spread, it slowly

changes to a regime of ventilation control.

As the fire continues to grow, and if ventilation is adequate, the ever increasing hot

gas layer at ceiling level starts to affect the combustion processes. This hot gas layer

comprising of combustion products, entrained air and unburned pyrolysis products

begins to radiate heat to the compartment below. This in combination with radiation

from the walls and ceiling enhances fire growth. Accelerated fire growth due to

radiation is thought to occur by the following two mechanisms.

I) Incident radiation upon the item first ignited pre heats the surface of the fuel

enhancing the rate of surface spread, hence fire development.

2) Other combustible items within the compartment are heated to an extent

where they eventually begin to pyrolyse. This pyrolysis may be sufficient for pilot

ignition to occur, or if temperatures are high enough ( "" 500°C) spontaneous ignition

of the pyrolysis products may prevail

Eventually all combustible items within the compartment become involved in fue

and the fire is said to be fully developed. At this stage the fue is ventilation

controlled and maximum temperatures within the compartment are attained. This

transition from growth of the initial fire to total room involvement, or a fully

developed fire, is often referred to as a flashover. However, this definition is not the

sole definition and we will discuss this in more detail later on.

7
The 'flashover' transition should not be thought of as an isolated single event such as

ignition but as a dynamic and rapid transition from the growth period of a fire to a

fully developed fue. This is demonstrated by the temperatureltime graph for a

typical compartment fire.

Fully DeVelope,

Fire i Decay

Temperature IFlash- Period

over

Time

Figure 1 Typical time/temperature history of a

compartment fire

The above assumes that ventilation within the compartment is adequate to support

and sustain the growing fire. The heat from the fue perhaps causing a window to

fail, thus maintaining the ventilation for the fue's increasing demand for oxygen.

However, if the compartment is such that ventilation is poor, the rate of burning may

be suppressed sufficiently to extinguish the fire or reduce the rate of burning to give

8
slow combustion or even a smoldering fire. In this instance, if sufficient heat energy

is maintained in the material first ignited, pyrolysis may continue filling the

compartment with unburned pyrolysis products. These pyrolysis products when

mixed with air in the correct proportions form a flammable mixture which may be

readily ignited. Ignition of this mixture may occur by entry of fire service personnel

into the compartment causing an inrush of cold air from outside. This inrush of cold

air and the subsequent movement of the hot gases within the compartment to the

outside, due to their natural buoyancy, forms a gravity current within the

compartment [5]. The subsequent mixing, and perhaps the rekindled fue from the

vitiated air, may lead to potentially catastrophic consequences. The fue may now

form an ignition source, the vitiated air creating a flammable mixture, with the

unburned pyrolysis products, causing a deflagration or flame front to pass through

the compartment. This deflagration, or rapid combustion, of these gases generate

vast amounts of heat energy causing their expansion. As a result of this expansion

other flammable gases may be forced out of the compartment, undergoing turbulent

mixing with air outside. This has the subsequent effect of producing a fue ball or jet

of flame at the exit of the compartment, the duration of which may vary between

several seconds to several minutes [6] . This phenomena is described as a

backdraught. I will again discuss this definition in more detail below to ensure that

terminology remains consistent. I will also discuss other situations that can lead to a

backdraught condition i.e. the build-up of unburned pyrolysis products within a

compartment where there is no fire.

9
2.2 Definitions of Flashover and Backdraught.

So far we have discussed both flashover and backdraught phenomena together when

considering compartment fires . This has not been accidental, but rather by design as

the two terms though generally definitive in scientific circles have become entwined

in the concepts of fire service training of personnel. The work of Giselsson and

Rosander of the Swedish Fire and Rescue Service describe the phenomenon of

backdraught as a delayed flashover, and it is from this consideration we will discuss

various definitions of both flashover and backdraught[7 ,8] . As an aside it may be

noted even the spelling is different between the United Kingdom and American

Scientists, backdraft is the favoured spelling in some publications.

2.2 (i) Flashover.

Various definitions for flashover are given in the U.K. by various respected sources,

these are listed below:-

1) British Standard 4422 1987 Section 13 describes flashover as the 'sudden

transition to a state of total surface involvement in a fire of combustible materials

within the compartment' [9] .

2) International Standards organization (lS.O.) has the following description:-

'the rapid transition to a state of total surface involvement in a fire of combustible

materials within an enclosure[IO].

Dougal Drysdale in his publication 'an introduction to fire dynamics ' [4] proffers

these other plausible definitions:-

10
1) The transition from a localised fire to a situation of general conflagration

within the compartment where all fuel surfaces are burning.

2) The transition from a fuel controlled fire to a ventilation controlled flre.

3) The sudden propagation of flame through the unburned gases and vapours

collected under the ceiling.

All of the above definitions, except the very last, describe the transition from the

growth period to the fully developed period of fire behaviour. R. Chitty in his survey

of backdraught [11] emphasizes that each of the Standards Institute deflnitions

should highlight that this transition must be sustained for flashover to have occurred.

The final definition given by Dougal Drysdale is interesting as it describes the

propagation of flame through the unburned gases and vapours collected under the

ceiling. This definition itself does not state whether there is total compartment

involvement after such an event, and indeed according to the theories of Giselsson

and Rosander such an event can occur for a short duration and be self extinguishing.

Other definitions commonly encountered have been put forward by various research

workers. Waterman (1968) concluded that a heat flux of approximately 20 kW/m 2

at floor level was required for flashover to occur. In these series of experiments he

used paper targets positioned on the floor at different locations relative to the flre of

origin. Incident radiation of this intensity was found to be sufficient to ignite the

paper. This, however, would be insufficient to ignite a relatively thick piece of

wood, but would produce enough pyrolysis to give pilot ignition.

11
Work by Hagglund et al, 1974; and Fang, 1975 also suggested that an upper ceiling

temperature of approximately 600°C is suggestive of flashover, although this

temperature will also be a function of height of the ceiling above the fIre. In the

average size compartment this temperature may be assumed to be the case, i.e. 2.5 m

high ceiling.

For the rest of this dissertation I will consider the term flashover to mean the total

involvement of all combustible surfaces within the compartment, i.e. the transition

from an isolated fIre to a fully developed fIre involving all combustible items within

the compartment, the fire generally considered as ventilation controlled. The

implication of this is that for flashover to occur there must be other combustible

items within the compartment. The exception to this defInition, however, is the

discussion of terminology used by the Swiss Fire Service where the word flashover

is used in a more general sense.

2.2 (ii) Backdraught

Neither the British Standards Institute or the International Standards organisation

define the term backdraught. In Britain a definition is given by the LF.E. (Institute

of Fire Engineers)[l2].

12
"An explosion of greater or lesser degree, caused by the inrush of fresh air from any

source or cause, into a burning building, where combustion has been taking place in

a shortage of air".

The American definition as put forward by the N.F.P.A. [13] is as fol1ows :-

"The explosive or rapid burning of heated gases that occurs when oxygen is

introduced into a building that has not been properly ventilated and has a depleted

supply of oxygen due to fire".

Both definitions describe the cause of a backdraught quite succinctly but they are not

complete. Both statements infer that there has to be limited ventilation to the fire

causing a build up of hot pyrolysis products within the compartment. However, the

possibility that these gases may be forced out of the compartment into another part of

the building should also be considered. Indeed such an occurrence may have more

severe consequences as the partial combustion products and unburned pyrolysis

products form a stoichiometric mixture with air within another part of the building.

An ignition source, as in the Blaina incident [3], may then present itself causing a

defiagration throughout the compartment(s).

The supplement to Book 1 and 11 of the Manual of Firemanship [14] describes three

backdraught scenarios. I will summarize them here.

In the first instance a fire in a compartment of inadequate ventilation may still be

burning at a reduced level. Entry of fire fighting personnel (or indeed failure of a

13
window etc.) introduces fresh air in the form of a gravity current. Air moves into the

compartment as hot gases leave the compartment via the upper reaches of the

opening. If the gases are hot enough they may auto-ignite, the burning restricted in

some sense by the rate of mixing of the air with the flammable gases.

If the gases are relatively cool the gravity current of fresh air may rekindle the fIre

providing an ignition source for the flammable gases. The flame produced will

depend upon the degree of mixing between the "tongue" of cold air that has entered

the room and the hot gases above. Upon ignition turbulent mixing may occur as the

heat from combustion causes the gases to expand forcing them out of the

compartment. This may produce a ball of flame outside the compartment as further

mixing will occur with external atmosphere.

In some instances the fue in a compartment may have almost died out and the fue

gases cooled down. When the compartment is ventilated air will diffuse into a

gaseous mixture possibly forming a highly flammable atmosphere. An uncovered

ignition source may then involve an explosion within the compartment. This is

sometimes referred to as a cold smoke explosion or delayed backdraught.

The final scenario occurs when the flammable gases of partial combustion are forced

into other parts of the building and an ignition source causes a backdraught. This

may occur upon failure of the compartment which has been containing the fire

14
igniting gases within other parts of the building. Obviously this endangers personnel

outside of the fire compartment.

The above definitions demonstrate current thinking within the fire scientist

community with regard to flashover and backdraught. I will include the following

section containing definitions and concepts put forward by Giselsson and Rosander

of the Swedish Fire and Rescue Service. R. Chitty [11] in his review, is rather

critical of some of the explanations and definitions given by these two authors.

However, he is in agreement with some of the fire fighting techniques demonstrated

in their training. I will therefore, give a precise' of their terminology to try and

clarify the definitions for fire fighting personnel with a view to avoiding confusion

when communicating with external bodies. I do feel the definitions offered by

Giselsson and Rosander confuse the picture of what is happening in a compartment

fue and the use of their terminology should be avoided. Some alternatives may be

suggested where appropriate.

15
2.3 The Concepts of Giselsson and Rosander with regard to

Compartment Fire.

2.3 (i) Over and Under Pressure.

Fundamental to the Swedes understanding of fire development is the concept of a

pressure differential from floor to ceiling. At the ceiling there is an over pressure,

and towards the floor an under pressure. Dividing the two zones exist a neutral zone.

There is no reference to the natural buoyancy of the hot combustion gases causing

layering within the room[7,8].

+ve overpressure

neutral plane(zone)

-ve under pressure

16
Figure 2 Under and Overpressure of a Fire Compartment.

It is quite conceivable to observe this effect when the compartment is vented, but in a

fully enclosed compartment any pressure differential would be minimal.

The position of the neutral zone is very significant, when the neutral zone * remains

high at ceiling level a 'lean flashover' is possible. The combustion gases are near

their lower flammability limits. As this neutral zone descends near to the floor it is

indicative of an increase in concentration of flammable combustion gases. The

upper flammability limits are eventually reached when the neutral zone reaches 0.5

m of the floor and a 'rich flashover' may occur.

2.3 (ii) Lean Flashover.

Terminology used here is in conflict with many academics of fire science, but it is

used extensively in the training of fire service personnel so it is necessary to include

it here. Giselsson and Rosander's ideas come under criticism for the use of pseudo-

scientific arguments and the lack of references or evidence with which to support

their theories. However, some of the phenomena they have observed have not been

explained with any degree of satisfaction by any other author, so from this viewpoint

their ideas are interesting and invite specific scientific research into this area.

• The neutral zone as described by Giselsson and Rosander is synonymous with the neutral plane used
in conjunction with a two zone model of a compartment fIre.

17
Lean flashover is the result of combustion gases and pyrolysis products (from

secondary heating) collecting under the ceiling. As the thickness of this layer

increases, the heat from the fire increases the overall room temperature and thus the

subsequent level of flammable gases reaching the ceiling layer. The flammable

gases eventually reach their lower flammability limit (appendix A) when it is argued

the initial fire ignites these gases causing a lean flashover. This is usually of short

duration due to its oxygen consumption and then produces an over carburated

mixture (above its upper flammability limit). It is also presumed this flashover

extracts many combustion gases from the wall and ceiling material.

An observation could be made at this point with regard to the last statement. Many

dwelling houses in Britain have paper on gypsum plaster for wall and ceiling lining

materials. It could not be envisaged that these materials will produce vast quantities

of pyrolysis products. However, it emphasizes the point that the upper gas layers in a

compartment may behave very differently with various lining materials. The lining

of the ceiling with polystyrene tiles could significantly contribute to the gaseous

mixture at ceiling level. The possibility of auto-ignition of these gases may also be

considered at elevated temperatures (appendix A).

18
2.3 (iii) Rich Flashover.

Post 'lean flashover' the atmosphere within the compartment becomes oxygen

deficient and the now reduced fire continues to produce pyrolysis products until a

rich mixture (over carburated) is produced. If lean flashover is not experienced then

it is argued that a rich over carburated mixture of flammable gases will still be

produced. This rich potentially flammable mixture may then produce various 'rich

flashovers' which are described below:-

Rich Flashover: A room containing an over-carburated mixture, when ventilated,

will fall within its flammable range. If an ignition source is present a rich flashover

will occur. This is synonymous with our definition of backdraught given in section

2.2 (ii).

2.3 (iv) Hot Rich Flashover

If the temperature of the combustion gases within a rich mixture is sufficiently high,

then ventilation of the compartment may lead to auto-ignition. As the gases ignite a

fire ball will develop from the ventilation opening and propagate into the

compartment. Again this definition is synonymous with the backdraught scenarios

given earlier.

2.3 (v) Delayed Flashover.

19
In this scenario ignition does not take place until an igniting flame flares up from the

initial fire. This is related to a concealed source of ignition for training purposes. In

such a situation the delay allows the flammable mixture to mix thoroughly with air

entering the room causing what is sometimes referred to as a combustion gas

explosion. In our terminology we would refer to this as a delayed backdraught.

2.3 (vi) Energy Rich Combustion Gases in Ambush.

In this instance Giselsson and Rosander describe energy rich substances that do not

ignite immediately air is introduced to a fuel rich atmosphere. This is due to the

greater requirement of air compared with "normal" combustion gases which often

have a higher thermal point of ignition.

This last statement seems rather pseudo-scientific although some flammable

mixtures will require a minimum strength ignition source, to provide sufficient

energy to overcome the chemical activation energy (Appendix A, [7]).

Gise1sson and Rosander then go on to explain fire development in a closed room. A

resume is given below:-

'A small initial fire begins in a closed room, the temperature increases, water in the

atmosphere is condensed and oxygen consumed, as a consequence the pressure in

the room falls and replacement oxygen can enter. The fue then continues to grow,

the hot combustible gases collecting at the ceiling, and combustible ceiling materials

begin to pyrolyse. A lean flashover may now occur forming an oxygen deficient

20
atmosphere. The temperature within the room is now elevated to an extent, more

fuel pyrolyses developing a fuel rich mixture. As a consequence the fire is reduced

due to over carburation, and the temperature falls within the compartment, as the

gases cool the pressure reduces and entraining fresh air from outside. A 'rich

flashover' then occurs, consuming the oxygen and elevating the temperature and

pressure within the compartment, This last cycle is then repeated forming a

pulsation process with combustion gases being forced out of the compartment, and

air subsequently being sucked into the compartment' .

This pulsation sequence may be observed on numerous occasions in practical fire

fighting experience and is mentioned in the Manual of Firemanship [14]. It is

indicative of a possible backdraught condition when the compartment is ventilated.

The positive pressure within the compartment in this instance is attributed to the

occurrence of a mini backdraught. The resultant under pressure being of a natural

consequence of the gases cooling.

21
3. A CONCEPTUAL APPROACH TO THE FLASHOVER AND

BACKDRAUGHT PHENOMENON.

A fonn of quasi-steady state analysis has been put forward by Thomas et al with

regard to thennal instabilities within a compartment containing a fIre. The basis for

this approach are the theories postulated by Semenov with regard to thennal

explosions. A summary of Semenov's ideas is given below.

3.1 Semenov's Theory.

If we consider an exothermic reaction in a closed vessel whose walls are maintained

at a temperature, T o ' the initial gas temperature within that vessel will also be T o .

Thus the rate of heat release from the initial chemical reaction will be[15, 16]:-

q, = Hc·W
H c = Heat. oj. combustion. J. MoZ-'
W = Rate. oj. Chemical. Reaction. Mol.s -'

The rate of heat transfer to the vessel walls will be given by:-

a=Heat transfer coefficient

S=Surface area(intemal) of Vessel

V=Volume

22
T=Gas Temperature within the Vessel.

The rate of temperature increase of the reactant mixture within the vessel is thus

given by:-

Where:-

p=Density of Reactant Mixture

C=Specific Heat Capacity

The effect of combustion products being ignored at this point, we will consider

conditions necessary to maintain a constant reaction rate (Appendix B - Effects of

Temperature upon Chemical Reaction rates).

For the reaction to proceed at a constant rate the temperature inside the vessel will be

required to remain constant. In order to achieve this ql must equal q 2 .

23
dq/dt

Temp

Figure 3 Heat Losses Versus Heat Gains for an Exothermic Reaction

24
Initially when the reaction proceeds there will be no heat loss to the vessel walls as

the reactant mixture is at the same temperature. This causes the temperature of the

mixture to rise due to heat from the reaction. Losses of heat energy to the vessel

walls also begin to increase as (T-T )becomes significant in the relationship for q 2 .
0

At a certain point the gas temperature within the vessel reaches a temperature T F •

At this temperature heat losses are equal to heat gains and the temperature of the

mixture remains constant. This results in a 'constant reaction rate'. If we also study

the graph it may be seen that a small increase in temperature results in heat losses

exceeding heat gains, hence tending to restore the reaction mixture to temperature

T F. The point F is a stable point, and a gas will react for a long time at this steady

state regime(See Fig 3).

However, if we consider point G, we may see that this temperature the point shows

instability. If the temperature is lowered slightly, heat losses exceed heat gains and

the temperature will fall to point T F (Steady State). For a slight temperature

increase heat gains exceed heat losses accentuating the rise in temperature. This in

tum causes a rise in the reaction rate and may result in a thermal explosion.

From the above we can see that the reaction rate strongly depends upon the nature of

the vessel it occurs in. Changes to the heat transfer conditions of the vessel wall will

alter the slope of the heat loss line, thus possibly preventing the ability for a stable

exothermic reaction to take place(see Fig 4).

25
dq/dt

Temp

Figure 4 The Effect of Wall Composition and Geometry Upon Reaction Rate.

A thermal explosion occurs when the heat loss line lies below the heat release curve.

26
A similar effect is noted by changing the initial conditions of wall temperature. See

figure 5 below.

dq/dt

To -00 T o +00

Figure 5 The Effects of Different Initial Vessel Temperatures upon Reaction Rate

These ideas have been used by Thomas et al in the study of compartment fues[17].

27
3.2 Quasi-steady State Theory for Compartment Fires.

When considering a compartment fire, initially the fire will bum 'freely' consuming

oxygen within the room, the rate of heat release being fuel controlled. As the fire

grows in size the rate of oxygen consumption increases until natural ventilation

within the compartment can no longer supply sufficient fresh air. At this point the

fire becomes ventilation controlled, the mathematical model for such a regime is as

described by Kawagoe et al (19580[4]. This assumes that the ventilation opening is

small enough to restrict the flow of air into the compartment sufficiently to govern

the rate of combustion:-

Where; Mb =Mass burning rate[kglmin]

A = Area of ventilation opening[m 2 ]

H = Height of opening[m]

N.B . This model was obtained by the burning of wood cribs in a compartment with

various ventilation openings and may only realistically be validfor cellolistic

materials.

This transition from a fuel controlled regime to ventilation control signifies the

occurrence of flashover and is associated with a large increase in heat release.

However, not all compartment fires will flashover, leading to conditions that may

induce a backdraught.

28
Using Semenov's ideas the temperature within a compartment (average gas

temperature) is governed by the heat input from the fIre and heat losses from the

compartment itself. These losses may be due to conduction through the walls,

radiation through an opening or convection through a ventilation opening. From this

we may write an energy balance for the compartment(See Fig 6):-

QG = QLR + QLC + QLCv


where the subscripts G,LR,LC,CV represent heat gains and heat losses by radiation,

conduction and convection respectively.

Heat gains to the compartment may be attributed to the heat from combustion and the

heat energy of the incoming gases entering the room.

Thus, the energy balance takes the form:-

Qi +Qc = QLR +QLC +QLCV

Where the notation is as described for figure 6.

29
QLC

.... QLC Qc

~QR

...

QC = Heat from Combustion Q LR =Heat Loss by Radiation


Qi = Heat Content of Gases Entering the Room

QLCV = Heat Content of Outflowing Gases QLC= Heat Loss Through Walls

Figure 6 Energy Balance for a Compartment Fire.

The above assumes that any changes within the compartment occur slowly, a quasi-

steady state is achieved for a short period of time, the gas temperature remaining

'constant' during this period.

30
If we now consider the heat release rate for the fIre, we must observe both the fuel

controlled regime and the ventilation controlled regime.

For the fuel controlled regime, a simple model used by Thomas shows that the heat

release rate of a compartment fire may be shown to be directly proportional to the

fourth power of the compartment gas temperature.

4
Qa(T - T/)
T = compartment. temperature
Tf = fuel . surface. temperature

This assumes that heat energy incident upon the fuel surface causes vapourisation of

the fuel, which may be true for liquid pool fires, but is an approximation for solid

fuel fires. Further work by Hasemi has shown that the reaction rate, and hence heat

release rate is related to the compartment temperature using an exponential

expression. This may be compared to the Arrhenuis equation[16]:-

Where CA =Concentration of reactant(s) [Moles per unit volume]


k = Reaction rate constant for the temperature of concern.
c~ = Concentration of reactant(s) to the power 'n', where On' is

known as the reaction order.

A =Pre-Exponential or frequency factor.

E =Activation energy[J mol-I]

31
R =Ideal gas constant[J mol - I K -I ]

In either case, both show that for fuel controlled fires, heat release is strongly

dependent upon temperature. For the ventilation controlled fire the heat release rate

may be related to the mass flow of air through the opening, the combustion

efficiency, the heat of reaction and the stoichiometric ratio of fuel to air.

Q= X·ma He
r
where:
X = combustion. efficiency
ma = mass. flo w. of. air.int o. the. fire. [kg / s]
He = heat.of·combustion.[J / kg]
r. = Stoichiometric. ratio. fuel. to. air

The mass flow rate in this expression may be described using Bernoulli' s

relationship, the flow rate through a ventilation opening within a compartment given

by:-

where
C = opening. disch arg e. coefficient
W = width. of .opening.
H = height. of . opening
Hn = height. of . opening. through. which. the. air. enters == H / 2
To = ambient. temperature
T = compartment.temperature(average )

32
Therefore it may be deduced from this expression that the mass release rate increases

quickly with temperature T, then decreases at large T, but remains fairly independent

of T between 400 and l000K. Thus, for a typical compartment fire the heat release

rate will show the following relationship(fig 7):-

33
dq/dt

TEMP

Figure 7 Heat Release/or Ventilation Controlled Compartment Fires(400-JOOOK)

To complete our thermal balance for the compartment it has been shown by Thomas

et al [17] that heat losses from a compartment follow an approximate linear

relationship with respect to increasing temperature:-

Q losses a (T - r:)
This takes into account losses by radiation, convection and conduction; the constant

of proportionality reducing in magnitude with increasing compartment wall

temperature. Hence, higher wall temperatures will result in lower rates of heat loss

from the compartment.

From the above we may now consider that for quasi-steady state conditions to exist

heat loss rates must equal heat gains, for both ventilation control and fuel control

regtmes:-

34
Overall Rate of heat gain ( .t = (a.Q)
a.
a Q)
T
at • T(Juel )
'(a.aQt )
• T(air)
+ Go

where Go =Heat Release Rate of Fire at Ambient Temperature

Or more simply;

Heat Gain G(T)=G(T) FUEL ,G(T) AIR +G 0

And for steady state conditions;

G(T)=L(T)

Where L(T) is equal to the total heat losses from the compartment. We may represent

this graphically as below:-

35
a. Q )
( J.t T

TEMP

Figure 8 Thermal Balance for Quasi-Steady State Analysis of

a Compartment Fire.

36
3.2(i) Quasi Steady State Analysis of Flashover.(See Fig 9)

If we now consider point Al ,for a fuel controlled fire, as being a quasi-steady state;

a small increase in temperature allows heat losses to exceed heat gains. This tends to

reduce the temperature back to point A I . A small decrease in temperature would

allow the rate of heat gains to exceed the rate of heat loss, again tending to maintain

a quasi-steady state at point Al . At point B I however, any such change in

temperature would have an adverse effect at maintaining the dynamic situation at

point B I . An increase in temperature would permit heat gains to exceed heat losses

resulting in a further temperature increase. The temperature would continue to

increase until the quasi-steady state at point C, for a ventilation controlled fire, is

achieved.

A lowering of the temperature at point B I ,allows losses to exceed gains, therefore,

a shift to the quasi-steady state of point A I is achieved.

However, our compartment fire is dynamic, and the wall temperatures will increase,

this in tum bring about a decrease in the slope (rate of rate of change) of heat loss

parameters allowing us to have a series of "steps", or quasi-steady states, as time

progresses.

37
G(T)FUEL

d.Q1
( d. t )T
.......~ ...

..6-_ . . . . . . . . . . . ..

-~.-/-1\
:: / · /L ....................:ltfMP .................j
~ ~
~ i

TEMP

Figure 9 Quasi-Steady State Analysis of Flashover.

This is again emphasized by the above diagram. As the slope decreases for the line

representing heat losses i.e. with increasing compartment wall temperature; the

points A 2 and B 2 coincide. This situation is thermally unstable and results in a jump

to an equivalent point C, which is a quasi-steady state. This jump, or rapid transition

represents a flashover.

Flashover may also be considered when a ventilation controlled fire is further vented

by the opening or failure of a door or window(Fig 10).

38
L(T).-OPEN
---------------------------------------~-~-
(a.T)
..................

a.tT
----~::::;,<:::-------------
.............. G(T) OPEN.,

.,..,/.,........./ / ---'"
./ /......... t-Transition --
--------------~~~:-------------- :
......... -------~--------~------------

.,. /.././., G(T;doSED

TEMP

Figure 10 Ventilation Induced Flashover.

39
3.2(ii) Quasi-Steady State Analysis of Backdraught

If we consider that the fire although ventilation controlled still produces pyrolysis

products at a rate equal to a fuel controlled fire at the same temperature, we may

consider the chemical potential energy stored in such a gaseous mixture. This may

be considered below in the following diagram:-

------------------------

(d.Qld.t)T

L(T)cLOsED

TEMP

Figure 11 Quasi-Steady State Analysis of Backdraught.

This energy difference could possibly be used to calculate the quantity of unburned

pyrolysis products within a compartment and hence any possible energy release

should a backdraught condition be realised. This conceptual approach with the

possibility of calculating the potential magnitude of a backdraught deflagration is

obviously worthy of more research. This quasi-steady state analysis also leads to

predictions in the development of a fIre if the fue loading and heat of combustion are

known as well as the rate of heat loss mechanisms and their magnitude.

40
3.3 Modeling of a Backdraught.

Little research work has been carried out into the backdraught phenomenon with

regard to estimating the magnitude of the deflagration, size of the fire ball outside of

the compartment, delay in the time to ignition and potential pressure wave caused by

such an event.

Most recent work and the most specific to date is that carried out by C.M.

Fleischmann of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand in conjunction with PJ.

Pagni of the University of California, Berkeley in America[18,19,20]. This work

constituted the modeling of a backdraught scenario within a compartment using the

alkane gases, propane and methane (C3 Hg , CH 4 respectively). The compartment

used was based upon half scale to that of a typical domestic premise, i.e. 1.2 m x 1.2

m x 2.4 m. The series of experiments involved the ignition of a gas burner within

the compartment positioned at one end. The flame was allowed to burn until

extinguishment took place due to depletion of oxygen within the atmosphere. The

level of unburned fuel was then allowed to increase within the compartment for

variable periods of time. After a time delay the fuel supply was cut off (to prevent

disturbance to the atmosphere within) and a vent opened at the opposite end of the

compartment. Ambient air thus entered the compartment, driven by buoyancy

(density differences) forming a flammable mixture within. An ignition source close

to the original fuel burner then ignited the gases when the fuel/air mixture within the

vicinity of the igniter fell within the flammable range.

41
The purpose of the above experiments was to demonstrate that time to ignition of the

fuel within the compartment depended upon the velocity of air entering the

compartment under the influence of a gravity current. It also tried to demonstrate

that the resulting flame front occurred at the fuel/air interface where eddy currents

(instabilities) result in the formation of a flammable mixture. As the flame

propagated through the compartment the expanding combustion products drive the

remaining fuel and air out of the compartment forming a fire ball outside.

Methane was chosen as the fuel in many of the experiments to represent hot

combustion products of a compartment fire, its density is less than that of air (0.714

kg/m3 & 1.29 kglm 3 @ S.T.P. respectively). This methodology is akin to the

backdraught scenario described in section 2.1 (ii) where dense ambient air enters a

fIre compartment along the floor underneath the hot combustion gases, forcing them

out of the upper reaches of the ventilation opening. Propane is also used in some of

the experiments, its density being greater than that of air (1.96 kglm 3 @ S.T.P.).

This may be akin to a delayed backdraught (section 2.1 (ii) ) where air diffuses into a

compartment (or indeed the denser gas spills out) forming a flammable mixture. The

behaviour of backdraught phenomenon in this latter scenario would obviously be

anticipated to be different to the one described earlier.

In conjunction with these backdraught experiments C.M. Fleischmann also

completed some salt water modeling tests to demonstrate a gravity current scenario

42
within a compartment where there is a density difference of fluids inside and outside

of the compartment [20]. In these series of tests a compartment was constructed

1I8th scale of the backdraught experiments (i.e. 1I16th full scale) and filled with

water. Denser salt water was used as the external (ambient) fluid and the geometry

of the opening into the compartment was the same as for the backdraught

experiments.

A difference in pH of the compartmental water and the external salt solution was

used in conjunction with phenolphthalein indicator to show the resultant mixing of

the two fluids when the compartment opening was uncovered. The gravity current

formed (defined as the flow of one fluid into another caused by a difference in

density) was akin to experiments performed with methane in the previous

backdraught trials. The less dense methane filling the compartment and the denser

ambient air moving in along underneath. This salt water modeling was necessary as

the flow field of a gravity current is usually sufficiently complex to prove very

difficult to solve from first principles.

3.3(i) Mathematical Description of a Gravity Current.

Fleischmann' s basis for his description of a gravity current relies on previous work

by other research fellows as far back as 1955, this includes the work by B.R. Morton,

Sir Geoffrey Taylor and lS. Turner [21].

43
Fleischmann' s model is based upon an semi-infinite horizontal box within which a

fluid is contained. At a specific moment in time one end is removed and a denser

ambient fluid allowed to enter the box. Obviously, assuming incompressible laminar

flow , as the denser fluid enters the box the internal fluid leaves via the upper reaches

of the same opening. The driving force behind this flow is the density difference of

the two fluids . The buoyancy force is represented by the normalised density

difference 13.

Figure 12. Horizontal Box Model of a Gravity Current.

Using the laws for the conservation of mass, momentum and energy for an inviscid

fluid it may be shown that:-

V\h\ =V2 ~ ................. .... ... .... .. ......... ..... ... ....... .. ... ... Mass
V\2h\ + f3 .g.h\2 = 2V22h2 + f3 .g. hi ..... .... ....... .... .... ... Momentum
V22 = 2. f3 .g(h\ - ~ ) ..... .. ..... ...... .. .................. .. .... .. . Energy

From the above it may be shown that:-

44
That is the height of the gravity current (h o ) is equal to the height of the exiting

current for a perfect liquid with no energy losses. The gravity current(h 0) refers to

the fluid entering the compartment.

From the above is developed a non-dimensional velocity or Froude number for the

fluid exiting the compartment.

Therefore, the non-dimensional velocity of the compartment fluid exiting the

compartment which is approaching the gravity current is given by:-

Hence for scaling purposes a characteristic dimension and velocity may be used

which is dependent upon the size of the box.

45
Therefore, a characteristic time may be given for the geometry of the box (or

opening), hence:-

This characteristic time may be described as the time taken for the fluid in the

compartment to move a characteristic distance Xc' in the horizontal plane, this

distance being equal to the height of the box or opening( Xc = hI ).

46
4. CHEMICAL KINETICS VERSUS DIFFUSION

In the preceding text we have discussed the characteristics of a compartment fire that

may produce conditions favourable for a backdraught. In this description we have

discussed four general scenarios that may involve a backdraught or deflagration of

unburned pyrolysis products; each of these different scenarios behave differently

with a higher or lower intensity due to the nature of the flammable gases within the

compartment and their subsequent mixing with the external atmosphere. The four

scenarios we have considered are as follows:-

(i) Backdraught a) - Hot combustion products auto ignite due to their temperature

when the gases within the compartment are vitiated with the atmosphere outside; due

to the opening or failure of a previously closed vent to the compartment.

b) - The flammable gases within the compartment are cooler than

their auto ignition temperature. When an opening is created to the compartment air

enters via a gravity current causing layering and mixing of the gases at the interface

of the cold air and hot compartment gases. A rekindled fire or other ignition source

may then ignite any flammable mixture produced.

(ii) Delayed Backdraught a) - The gases within the compartment may have cooled

down and the fire almost extinguished. Air entering the room may then diffuse into

the compartment and thoroughly mix with the flammable gases contained within.

An ignition source may present itself causing combustion of the gases to propagate

with such severity as to cause an explosion.

47
b) - Flammable gas may be forced out of the compartment containing the

fire to other parts of the building. These gases may be relatively cool and mix freely

with air contained within these other areas of the building. A flammable mixture

may subsequently be formed, which, with a suitable ignition source may be ignited.

The different physical effects of the above may be explained by considering the

chemical kinetics and physical transfer processes (heat and mass) with regard to the

combustion process.

Most combustion processes, in practical applications, are governed by one of the

following categories:-

(i) Combustion controlled by chemical kinetics.

(ii) Combustion that is controlled by diffusion, flow and other mixing processes.

(iii)Combustion that is controlled by both the chemical kinetics of the reaction

and the mixing processes of fuel and oxidant, the effects of both being of similar

importance.

The phenomena of ignition, explosion, extinction and quenching of flames are

examples of kinetically controlled phenomena, whereas a backdraught scenario in (i)

above will represent a diffusion controlled phenomenon.

48
If we consider a mixture of fuel, oxidant and combustion products fonning a

homogenous mixture within a combustion chamber where the temperature is uniform

throughout, the rate of reaction will entirely depend upon the chemical kinetics of

that reaction. The combustion process is said to be kinetically controlled, and is due

to the fact that the chemical kinetics are slow compared to the rates of heat and

species diffusion. In this instance there are no physical transfer processes as the

mixture is homogeneous with uniform temperature etc. However, if there are

concentration and temperature gradients within the compartment, but the rate of the

transfer processes still exceed the chemical kinetics, there will be adequate time for

species and temperature to smooth out any spatial variations. This again will be

kinetically controlled combustion and will occur more or less uniformly in the

reaction space.

At the other end of the scale chemical kinetics for combustion are usually very fast

and any spatial non-unifonnity's of species concentration and temperature are unable

to equalise out. Distinct gradients of species and temperature are formed, diffusion

causing the transfer of heat and species to areas of lower temperatures and species

concentrations respectively. Reactants will diffuse into the combustion zone and

products will diffuse from it. This form of combustion is said to be diffusion

controlled and is distinguished by the flame occurring at some distinct station in

space.

49
From the above we may observe that the backdraught scenarios described lie

somewhere between kinetically controlled combustion i.e. delayed backdraught, and

a diffusion controlled combustion, i.e. gravity current. This accounts for the

difference in severity of the resulting combustion occurring with these unburned

pyrolysis products. The severity varying from a deflagration through the

compartment to an explosion capable of damaging the structure of the building (see

glossary of terms appendix B).

4.1 Rates of Flame Propagation.

When we are considering a backdraught scenario we are concerned with the rate of

propagation of the flame front through the compartment, or the deflagration. The

rate of propagation, or the burning velocity, is dependent upon fluid flow, heat

transfer and diffusion of various species across the flame front.

Deflagrations are considerably slower flames than detonations typically in the range

of 10° to 10 2 cm/Sec. As the flame front progresses, gases in front of the flame are

heated by the combustion processes, expanding and accelerating (as a result of this

expansion), to accommodate the mass flux through the flame. When we are

considering a laminar flame in a long horizontal tube it may be shown [16] that the

pressure difference across the flame front is given by:-

Where:- P s = Pressure of Reactants.

50
Pf =Pressure of Products.
ps = Density of Reactants.
Pf = Density of Products.

Us = Velocity of Reactants.

Where typically for hydrocarbons this pressure drop is small and a deflagration is a

constant pressure process.

Flame speed must also be related to any movement of the unreacted fuel loxidant

mixture. This fundamental flame speed (u o ) is defined as the velocity of a laminar

flame front in a direction normal to itself and with respect to the reactant mixture.

Thus propagation speed up (as seen by an external observer) may be related to

fundamental flame speed and the velocity of the fresh gas mixture u R by:-

The flame speed is strongly influenced by the reaction kinetics, presence of dilutents,

temperature and pressure.

4.1 (i) Influence of Fuel/Oxidant Ratio.

Flame speed shows a strong dependency upon the composition of the reactant

mixture. Near the stoichiometric mixture results in maximum flame speeds and may

be correlated with the mixture that corresponds to the maximum flame temperature

51
for a adiabatic mixture. If the mixture contains too little fuel or too little oxidant the

flame is unable to propagate so easily reducing the flame speed.

FLAME SPEED

cmls

o 20 40 60 80 100 % FUEL

Fig ure 13. The Effect of FueVOxidant Ratio on Flame Speeds

4.1 (ii) Influence of the type of Fuel.

Work by Gerstein, Levine and Wong has shown that for various families of

hydrocarbons, an increase in their molecular weight reduces the range of

flammability [4, 16]. By implication, this results in a narrowing of the curve for

flame velocities with respect to fuel oxidant mixtures, However, for the lower

alkanes (methane, propane, butane etc.) the dependence of the number of carbon

atoms is not shown, the flame speeds remaining roughly constant at 70 cm/Sec.

52
2~ Figure 141nfluence of the Type of Fuel.

1~

a
1 2 3 4 5 6 No of Carbon

Atoms

4.1 (iii) Influence of Pressure.

Lewis studied the effects of pressure on flame speeds for various hydrocarbon

mixtures assuming a dependence of uoa. p n . However, the index for various

mixtures was found to be dependent upon the relative flame speed itself. For flame

speeds <50 cm/s, the flame speed increases with decreasing pressure. In the range 50

- 100 cm/s, it is independent of pressure and > 100 cm/s. decreases with decreasing

pressure. This has been attributed to the overall reaction order of the combustion

process, being less than two for flame speeds less than 50 cm/s., equal to two for

flames in the range 50 - 100 cm/s. , and greater than two for the latter.

53
4.1 (iv) Influence of Initial Mixture Temperature.

Burning velocities are usually quoted for fuel oxidant mixtures at an initial

temperature of 20 - 25°C, however, u increases with elevated temperatures of the

initial reactants.

TR Increasing

Uo / em 2-1
s

%Fuel

Figure 15 Influence of Fuel Temperature.

54
A general relationship for methane, ethane and propane was found by Dugger [16] as

shown below.

40

I I I I I I I
o 100 200 300 400 500 600 700

Figure 16 Relationship for Methane, Ethane and Propane

From the above data the relationship below may be considered:-

m
uOa .TR
Where.m.is. in. the. region.1Sto2.0

Zabelakis (1965) also showed the following expression for methane, propane,

n-heptane and iso-octane in the range 200 - 600K.

uo = 0.1 x 3x 10-6 x T 2......... Where.u o .is.in.ml s

55
At high temperatures of 800 K, mixtures of these gaseous fuel and air undergo

pyrolysis reactions, thus changing the composition of a mixture.

4.1 (v) The Effect of Turbulent Pre-mixed Flames.

Pre-mixed turbulent flames will propagate much faster than laminar ones. However,

once a flame becomes turbulent, what is measured is not the fundamental flame

velocity, which by definition requires the flame to be laminar and is characteristic of

the reacting mixture, but the flame speed (burning speed). This burning speed is

usually dependent upon the dimensions of the vessel where combustion takes place.

Transport of heat and mass in turbulent flames does not solely rely upon molecular

diffusion phenomenon c.f. laminar flames, but also upon eddy mixing which is a

function of geometry.

4.2. What's Burning?

From a practical fire fighting point of view the signs for a possible backdraught

scenario are well documented in fire service training manuals [14] . These include

such things as oily deposits on windows, the pulsation of smoke in and out of

ventilation openings, and heavy smoke logging of the building. However, little is

understood of how the composition of the smoke makes it so inflammable.

56
In some instances the presence of blue ghosting flames has been reported. This has

been attributed to the combustion of carbon monoxide, produced at high levels due

to poor ventilation. However, can these high levels of carbon monoxide be solely

responsible for the highly flammable nature of such gases or are other partial

decomposition products the major contributory factor?

An initial investigation was undertaken into the pyrolysis products of chipboard with

the aim of identifying which flammable pyrolysis products may be contained in the

smoke from the above. The analysis involved the pyrolysis of chipboard under

varying temperatures. The gaseous products released by thermal decomposition

were analysed using gas chromatography coupled in series to a mass spectrometer.

The results were inconclusive and it was determined that the use of such techniques

would be worthy of a dissertation in its own right. However, the preliminary results

and analysis are discussed in Appendix C.

57
5. EXPERIMENTAL EQUIPMENT.

5.1 Introduction.

In the light of what has been said previously, with regard to the Modeling of a

backdraught scenario, work was undertaken to attempt to analyse the application of

theoretical models, especially those proposed by C.M. Fleischmann.

C.M. Fleischmann in his work, showed that a backdraught often depended heavily

upon the formation of a gravity current within a compartment. In his experiments

the gases methane and propane were used to create a fuel rich atmosphere within a

scaled compartment, which was then vented allowing a gravity current of ambient

(fresh) air to enter, modeling a backdraught.

Using equipment made available by the Breathing Apparatus School of Greater

Manchester Fire Service, a series of experiments were designed with a view to

demonstrating the above backdraught model and making appropriate measurements.

The two items of equipment were the Giselsson box and Firebox. Video camera

footage was used to analyse the use of the above equipment along with thermal

images, and in the latter case, thermocouples were also used.

54
5.2 Equipment.

5.2 (i) Giselsson Box.

The Giselsson box was developed by Giselsson and Rosander of the Swedish Fire

and Rescue Service for training of fire service personnel. The original intention for

the design of the equipment was to demonstrate the flammability limits of a

combustible gas and the possible effects of a build-up of flammable combustion

products within a compartment.

The tank comprises of two glass sides and flaps across the top to release any

pressure build-up within the tank itself. There is also a fan located at floor level, to

mix the gases within the tank, a gas inlet and an ignition source in the form of an

electric arc. The tank may be filled with a variety of flammable gases, the supply of

which is at a constant flow with an electrically operated valve. The ignition source

is manually operated by the means of a remote switch. The tank may be vented by

the removal of an inspection cover located on one end of the tank. There is also a

crude form of timer on the front of the tank to show the approximate time the gas

supply remains open, hence an estimation of the quantity of gas supplied to the tank

maybe made.

Details of the tank dimensions are given below. The actual tank may be seen on the

following photographs(Appendix E).

55
Side Elevation En-d Elevation

695mm 303mm

500mm 500 25

245mm

Plan View

695mm
o
gas source

303mm

®fan ignition source(9

Figure 17. The Giselsson Box

5.2 (ii) Video Camera Footage.

The results of different experiments were analysed using video camera footage at a

speed of 25 frames per second. This could be slowed on play back to approximately

one quarter of the filming speed. Bum speeds for the flame front were obtained on a

56
frame by frame basis, one frame being equivalent to a time step of 1I24th of a

second.

The camera specifications are:-

Make:- Panasonic Digital Video Camera AG-EZIE.

Recording Speed:- 24 frames per second ..

Play-back:- StiWadvance 1 frame = 1I24th second.

5.2 (iii) Fire Box.

Again this item of equipment was originally developed to demonstrate backdraught

conditions to fire fighting personnel within the fire service, The box comprises of a

metal box lined with duraboard to act as insulation. Over the duraboard is then

fixed chipboard panels 15 mm thick on all internal surfaces within the box. The

actual box dimensions are shown below.

57
Fire Box

550mm

o
o

o
o

o =Position of Thermocouples
Figure 18 The Fire Box

58
Section Through Wall Side Elevation Showing Location of

Thermocouples

REAR
OF

BOX

chipboard duraboard steel

15m.m 25m.m 2m.m

Figure 18a.Section and Side View of Fire Box

A small kindling fire (comprising of chipboard) is then ignited using a blow torch at

the rear of the box. The fIre within the box slowly develops, flashover occurs and a

fully developed fue then exists. The development of a neutral plane,i.e. the

boundary between hot buoyant gases and cooler entrained gases, can clearly be seen.

After the fire has been burning for some time the box is "closed down" by manually

holding a door over the aperture at the front of the box. This causes the fire to self

extinguish, but the excess heat energy generated within the box maintains rapid

pyrolysis of the chipboard, The generation of the pyrolysis products eventually fills

the box creating a positive pressure in relation to the ambient pressure, forcing gases

59
out from behind the door seal, where the fit is less than perfect. If the gases are hot

enough auto ignition occurs.

When the door cover is removed air is immediately entrained into the box as the hot

gases exit due to their buoyancy. The fire is rekindled and the temperatures within

the box in any case, cause a rapid deflagration forming a substantial fire ball outside

the box.

Both video footage of this sequence of events and temperature variations were

recorded, using thermocouples in positions marked on the diagram. Temperatures

were logged every 2 seconds using an analogue recorder, this data was then

transferred to a computer for analysis.

The thermal image camera was also used in an attempt to gain thermal images of gas

fluctuations . The results of these thermal images were disappointing due to reasons

given in section 5.2 (iv) below.

5.2 (iv) Thermal Imaging.

Thermal image pictures were obtained for both the Giselsson box and the fIre box.

These. images were obtained using the following camera:-

Make:- Inframetrics PM250 Thermacam.

Wavelength Operation:- 3.4 -5 f.lm

Flame Filter:- 3.9f.lID

This camera uses 256 x 256 platinum silicide focal plane array detection. Images

produced may be highlighted in colour to show isotherms within the field of view or

60
provide spot temperatures at a precise location within the image. The image itself

comprises of 256 x 256 pixels (picture elements), the output of which may be

directed to a television or V.c.R. Digital signals may also be used for data analysis

using a P.e.

The camera was used with the intention of showing thermal irregularities, and hence

gravity currents, within both the Giselsson box and firebox experiments. A flame

filter was used over the lens (3.9Jl m) which eliminates wavelengths common to

luminous flames entering the camera. This allows the camera to measure the

temperature of gases within the compartment.

However, problems were encountered with the use of the camera. Measurements of

temperature for the Giselsson box proved ineffective due to the reflection of light

from the glass sides of the box. Also software for use with the camera only permits

a "still" picture to be taken where ideally a moving sequence of thermal images

would be desirable. This latter problem may be overcome by the inclusion of

further software for the camera operation.

Problems were also encountered with the fIre box due to the fact that the linings of

the box were at a higher temperature than the gases within it. The camera thus gave

a thermal isotherm image of the box linings in precedence to thermal images of

temperature variations of gas layers within the box.

61
5.2 (v) Thermocouples and Data Logger.

In the fIre box test temperatures were recorded using thermocouples in tandem with

a data logger. The location of the thermocouples was as shown in the diagram for

the fire box, the ends of each thermocouple extending to an imaginary central

vertical plane running through the box front to back.

The technical details are as below:-

Data Logger. Grant instruments (Cambridge Ltd.)

1,000 series squirrel.

Thermocouples. Rapid Response Type K.

Mineral insulated.

't (63% of step change) typical 10m secs. Temperature range 0 - 1,OOO°C.

62
6. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS.

6.1 Giselsson Box.

6.1 (I) Introduction.

The purpose of the group of experiments completed with the Giselsson Box was to

demonstrate the ventilation of a compartment in which resided an over rich fuel air

mixture. The delay to ignition of the flammable gas was measured from the moment

of ventilation and the subsequent flame speeds and modes of propagation recorded.

The sequence of events was recorded using the digital video camera as described in

the experimental equipment and attempts were also made to analyse the subsequent

gas temperatures, internally and externally of the box, using the thermal imaging

camera.

An initial experiment was completed to determine the gas flow rate into the

compartment of the box (Experiment 1, Table 1). In this experiment propane was

allowed to enter the box with continuous stirring and the ignition source (electric

arc) also maintained continuously. If homogenous mixing within the compartment

is assumed, the point at which ignition prevails may be taken as the instant at which

the lower explosive limit is reached. Hence, the flow rate of propane into the box

could be calculated.

62
The results of further experiments for the Giselsson box are shown in table I below,

a brief resume is given here.

Experiment 2 was completed to demonstrate the upper explosive limit. The gas

supply was maintained without the ignition source. Mixing of the compartment gas

was achieved using the stirring mechanism, and ignition delayed to a point

approximating to the upper explosive limit. This approximation was from

experience of previous tests carried out with this apparatus. A similar methodology

was practiced for the demonstration of the stoichiometric mixture, experiment 3 in

the table.

Experiments 4,8,9,10,11 were used to demonstrate the backdraught scenario, the gas

supply maintained to achieve an over rich mixture in the compartment. The

compartment was then vented to allow fresh air to enter. The time to ignition in

each of these experiments being the delay between venting of the compartment and

subsequent flame propagation throughout the mixture. The ignition source was

operated upon venting of the box in each instance.

Experiments 6 and 7 were repetitions of the lower explosive limit demonstrating

suppression of the lower limit with an elevated temperature of the box. Experiment

5 was a practical demonstration showing the affect of a concealed ignition source.

63
6.1 (ii). Analysis of the Results from the Giselsson Box.

1 24 Constant Yes Non. 24 L.E.L.

2 101 Delayed> 10 1 s. Yes Non. 101 U.E.L.

3 50 Delayed>50 s. Yes Non. 50 Stoichiometric

4 150 Delayed> 150 s. Initial 112 52

open

5 77 Constant Yes Non. 77 Concealed

ignition source.

6 23 Constant Yes Non. 23 L.E.L.

7 23 Constant Yes Non. 23 L.E.L.

8 150 Delayed> 150 s. Initial Full 7 Possible heating

open. of box

9 154 Delayed> 150 s. Initial 114 14

open.

10 149 Delayed >149 s. Initial 114 35

open.

11 150 Delayed>150 s. Initial Full 28

open.

TABLE 1

64
6.1 (iii). Overall Combustion Reaction of Propane with Oxygen (Air).

This assumes complete idealized combustion which is never completely attained

even with pre-mixed flames:-

The reaction with air at its stoichiometric mixture is:-

Therefore, the stoichiometric mixture equals:-

I
26 x 100 = 3.8%.v / v .... . Oj .Propane.in.Air

However, the lower flammability limit of the alkanes is approximately twice the

stoichiometric quantity of air in relation to the alkane gas ; hence, the lower

flammability limit:-

65
L.E.L (Lower Explosive Limit)=lISI x 100

=1.96% v/v @ 273K

Literature Value(L.E.L)[7]=2.1% v/v @ 273K

Literature Value(U.E.L)=9.5% v/v @ 273K

For a backdraught condition to occur C.M. Fleischmann in his series of experiments

[18, 19] stated that the hydro-carbon concentration (mass fraction) needed to be

greater than 10% for a backdraught to occur. This, however, was measured in the

upper layer and it is unclear if there is any distribution of gas concentrations

throughout the depth of the compartment,

A 10% mass fraction for propane may be calculated.

10% Mass Fraction=lOg C3 Hg in lOOg C3 Hg/Air

= 0.227 moles in(0.227+3.l2S)

= 0.227 moles in 3.352

=6.8% v/v

It may be deduced from this that a backdraught may still be experienced when the

mixture is below what is considered its U.E.L. under normal atmospheric

conditions. Combustion prohibited due to the depletion of oxygen which affects the

flammability limits. However, this is not applicable in these experiments.

66
6.1 (iv) Calculation of Volume Flow Rate into the Tank. (Experiment 1).

U sing the results of experiment 1:-

Volume of Tank = 0.5 x 0.695 x 0.303 = 0.105m 3

= 105dm 3

Gas Supply Duration = 24 sec.

Assuming lower flammability limit = 2.1 %.

Volume of Gas introduced to the Tank = 0.105/1 00 x 2.1

=2.21 x 10-3 m 3

Volume Flow Rate = 2.21124 = 0.092 dm 3 / s

6.1 (v) The Upper Explosive Limit (U.E.L. - Experiment 2).

The experiment conducted estimated a duration of the gas supply required for the

box to reach the upper explosive limit (9.1 % v/v) from the experience of previous

tests. However, a more scientific approach may be realized using the previously

calculates gas supply rate.

Gas Supply Rate= 0.092 dm 3 / s

Duration of Supply= 101 sec

67
3
Vol = 0.092 x 101 =9.292 dm

Vol of Tank =0.105 m 3

:. v/vPropane =0.0129/0.105 x 100

=8.8 %

This value of 8.8% v/v is close to the literature value of 9.5% v/v and shows the

observed experimental results are a good approximation to the combustion

behaviour close to the U .E.L.

6.1 (vi) Stoichiometric Volume of Air (Experiment 3).

In this experiment the gas supply was maintained with the stirring mechanism to

ensure a homogeneous mixture. After a time interval of 50 seconds the gas supply

was terminated along with the stirrer operation.

Ignition Delay 50 seconds.

Volume of Propane supplied = 50 x 0.092 = 4.6dm 3

4.6xlO-3
% v/v Propane in Air = 0.105 x 100 = 4.4%

The actual theoretical stoichiometric mixture for propane from the previous

calculations is 3.8% vivo It is often found in practical applications that maximum

flame temperatures and hence flame speeds (pre-mixed) are obtained when the gas is

68
slightly above its theoretical stoichiometric mixture. Hence, for practical purposes

this is a good approximation.

6.1 (vii) Backdraught Simulation Experiments (Experiments 4, 8, 9,10,11).

These experiments were used to simulate a backdraught scenario. The similarity

between an actual backdraught and these experiments is the existence of a

flammable gas within a compartment above its explosive limits. When the

compartment is vented air is introduced diluting the mixture within the compartment

ultimately achieving a flammable mixture inside. This may then be ignited by a

suitable ignition source.

Ideally Methane would have been the gas selected for the experiments as it is less

dense than air and would have been analogous to hot compartment fire gases.

However, it must be borne in mind that often a delayed backdraught, or indeed a

cold smoke explosion, may occur which is probably more analogous to Propane, the

flammable gas being denser than air.

6.1 (viii) Estimation of the Percentage Vol.Nol. of Propane prior to Ignition.

Using the gas flow rate estimated from the lower explosive limit the following may

be calculated:-

Experiment 4.

69
Gas supply duration = 150 sec.

Supply Rate = 0.092 dm 3

Volume supplied = 13.8.dm 3 = 13.8 X 1O-3 m 3

:. %v/v Propane=13.1 %

This calculation was repeated for the other experiments where delayed ignition was

used in a fuel rich mixture.

TABLE 2

When the Giselsson box was being filled the mixture was continually stirred in

order to obtain a homogenous mixture throughout the box. This situation may be

representative of a delayed backdraught where combustion gases and pyrolysis

products have cooled and species diffusion within the compartment has occurred.

Once sufficient gas had entered the compartment the stirrer mechanism was

70
switched off before ventilation commenced. This was done in order to eliminate

physical effects caused by the action of the stirrer.

Assuming a homogenous mixture, the next step in the calculation is to derive a

relative density for the flammable mixture within the compartment.

Density Calculation.

Volume of Propane in Air = 13.1 % v/v

% v/v Air = 86.9 %

Molecular Weight Propane = C3 Hg = 44g1mole

Molecular Weight Air = 28.8 glmole

86.9 )
44+ ( -x28.8
.. 13.1
Average Molecular WeIght MIxture 7.634 = 30.8. g / mol

Assuming ideal gas behaviour and an ambient temperature of 12°C.:-

PV=nRT

Where:

R = 8.314J.K- 1.mor1
P = 1.atm = 1.013 x 105 N / m 2
nR.T 3
Vol@12Ceicius= - - = 0.02339m = 23.39dm3
P
. 30.8 X 10-3 -3
:. Denslty = 3 = 1.317 kg.m
23.39 x 10-

71
If the calculation is repeated using 13.5% v/v we obtain a density of 1.319 kgm - 3 ,

so for accuracy that may be expected from such a calculation I will assume 1.32

kgm -3 in experiments 4, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

6.1 (ix) Fleischmann's Gravity Current.

The theories of Fleischmann have been discussed in the previous text, however, a

useful relationship for the gravity current velocity is given in his paper Exploratory

Backdraft Experiments [18].

Where p is the reference density, g is acceleration due to gravity and h

the opening height.

It has been assumed that p is equal to the mean of the two densities. However, if

this is incorrect the error will be small and consistent by a small factor. This

relationship shows a strong resemblance to the semi-empirical relationship given in

the CIBSE Guide [24].

Hence in our case:-

u =!3 (1.32 -1.23) h


1.275 .g.
=014
. m.s
-\

For our full door opening (Experiment 8) this equates to a volume flow rate of:-

72
Assuming half of the opening is available to the entering flow;

Q =A.u ..... ................. ... ....... ... Where A and u are the Area and Velocity
offlow respectively.

=(0.126 x 0.245) x 0.14

=4.3 x 1O-3 m 3 s -1 =4.3.dm 3 .s-1

The results of similar calculations for the other experiments are shown in the table

of Results. Table 3.

6.1 (x) Calculation of Infiltration of Ambient Air.

The CIBSE Guide describes a calculation for the infiltration of ambient air into a

room with only one opening[22]. The driving force to this infiltration being the

difference in air temperature between the inside and outside of the building. The

model that is applicable to the situation within the Giselsson Box is that of a single

room with one opening to the outside, i.e. such as a classroom in summer adjoined

to other rooms by a corridor, but with all internal doors closed. An example

calculation is shown below for the results of experiment 8.

Hence:-

73
O.5
A tl.t.ho.g
Q=Cd
[---....:::....-:::....

3 t+273 J

h o = Height of Opening [m]

A =Area of Opening[m 2 ]

-
t = Mean of the External Ambient and Internal Air Temperatures

Where we may use the following relationship to substitute density for temperature

[21].

Where po=Density of the Ambient Fluid

PI = Reference Density

p = Density of the Convective Fluid(Less Dense)

1
Where f3.: - And ~ Is the Reference Temperature.
~

Hence, the expression may be written as:-

Where:- Q = Flow Rate m 3 S-I

Cd = Discharge Coefficient for Opening (0.61 for sharp edged

openings)

ho =Height of Opening [m]

74
A =Area of Opening [m 2 ]

g = Acceleration due to Gravity [9.8Ims- 2 ]

Area of Opening =0.251 x 0.245 =0.0615 m 2


Ambient Temperature =12°C

p (Air) @ 12°C = 1.23 kg.m-3

0.0615((1.32 -1.23)0.251 x 9.81 J0.5


0.61 x 3 1.275

Q ==5.21 x 10-3 .m 3 / s
= 5.2.dm 3 / s

The above relationship assumes a neutral plane forming between the incoming and

outgoing flow of fluids from the compartment and is based upon principles

governing the stack effect. The resultant expression is akin to relationships

expressed by C.M. Fleischmann.

This gives us an initial flow rate into the compartment of 5dm 3 /s. Thus if no mixing

occurs between the incoming and outgoing fluids and the buoyancy potential could

be maintained, there would be a complete volume exchange within the box in 20

seconds. However, the fluids are not perfect and mixing will occur at the interface

between the fluids . This will eventually affect the density difference (the driving

force to buoyancy) between the fluids and will decrease the rate of ventilation.

However, study of the table of results for delayed ignition shows that for a full door

opening the ignition delay was 7 and 28 seconds respectively(Table 1).

75
If we assume an initial inflow of 5dm 3 1 s and an initial gas concentration of 13.1 %

vlv, a very broad approximation to attainment of the upper explosive limit and hence

the time to ignition, may be calculated.

U.E.L=9.5 %

3 3
== 0.095 dm in 1 dm

== 10.0 dm 3 in 105 dm 3

== lOdm 3 • C3 H g.in.l05dm 3

Loss of propane required from total volume of the box =3.8 Litres

Loss rate=0.475dm 3 S - 1

Time to Obtain UE.L =3.8/0.475 =8 sec

This is a gross over-simplification stating that there is no mixing between the

internal and ambient gases and the buoyancy driven flow is maintained at a constant

rate. However, the minimum time to ignition could be expected to be in the region

of this idealised behaviour.

Flow rates for the other experiments calculated by this method are again shown in

Table 3.

6.1 (xi) Assumption of Dilution Ventilation.

76
If the assumption is made that when the aperture to the box is first opened,

ventilation takes place but the gravity current is far from ideal and rapid mixing and

diffusion occurs to form a diluted mixture; then the extreme of this situation may be

represented by:-

Where C= Concentration at Time t

Co=Initial Concentration

v =Ventilation Rate
t= Time [sec]

V =Volume of Box

Consideration may then be given to calculation of the volume flow rate by

considering the time to ignition being representative of the concentration equal to

that of the upper explosive limit.

Hence, for experiment 8:-

9.5 = 13.l.e -v·1v


In 9.5 =In 13.1 + In e -v·1v
Vx7
2.25 = 2.57 - 0.105

77
6.1.(xii)Ventilation Flow Rates and Time to Ignition

The previous calculations were repeated for each of the backdraught experiments,

the results of which are shown below. Ventilation rates are derived for each of the

mathematical models described in the above text. These values are then compared

to the delay in ignition from the instant of opening the vent to the compartment, and

the corresponding vent area or ventilation factor. The latter is calculated from the

area of the vent and its vertical height using the expression given in Table 3.

Figure 19 demonstrates the time to ignition for various ventilation factors at

different temperatures. See section 6.2(ii).

78
VENTll-ATION RATESldm 3

Vent Ventilation

EXP'T Fleischmann CrnSE Infiltration


I:Time
;" to Area x Factor

~onIS
AHl /2
100
iN~; ~ I";
':.L -""-

4 2.1 2.6 0.65 52 3.1 1.6

8 4.3 5.2 4.8 7 6.1 3.05

9 1.1 1.3 2.4 14 1.5 0.75

10 1.1 1.3 0.96 35 1.5 0.75

11 4.3 5.2 1.20 28 6.1 3.05

TABLE 3

79
Figure 19

Ventillation Factor V's Time

3.5

3
. . '.
.

...0
-
I.
2.5
( .)
.! 2
c::
0
;;
~ 1.5
;;
c::
41)
,
> '.,

0.5 • .,CC

,.
'"

• .

o
o 10 20 30 40 50 60
Time/s l.serieS1 1

6.1(xiii) Rates of Flame Propagation

The rates of Propagation of the flame front were measured for each of the

experiments with the Giselsson box. Measurements were obtained by using the

video footage on a frame by frame basis. A degree of approximation is often

necessary as the centre of Propagation is not always clearly defined, and the distance

of flame front travel is obtained by using the enclosing dimensions of the box.

However, the results obtained are given below:-

80
EXPERIMEN COMMENT

1 L.E.L some ghosting

2 U.E.L

3 Stoichiometric

4 Increased rate towards vent

5 Enclosed ignition source

6 L.E.L Some Ghosting

9 Ghosting Flame

10

11 Enclosed Ignition Source

TABLE 4

81
6.2 Discussion of Results.

I will firstly consider the results produced by the Giselsson Box. The objective of

this series of experiments was to appraise whether a time to ignition for a potentially

flammable mixture within a compartment may be calculated

and thus accounts for the mechanism by which such an event may occur.

The only current research into this area has been completed by C.M. Fleischmann et

al [18, 19] where theories for a gravity current have been postulated. In his

experiments both Methane and Propane were used, although results are only given

for Methane. As previously stated Methane was chosen due to its relative density to

that of ambient air. In his paper theories are based upon work previously undertaken

on the fluid theory of Convective flows. However, he often refers to the velocity of

the gravity current depending upon the height of the compartment (based upon the

model for a semi-infinite horizontal box) but concludes that the characteristic

velocity is entirely dependent upon the opening geometry. It was therefore assumed

that 'h' in the expression used, referred to the opening geometry, as would be

anticipated, and was not related to the compartment height. Bearing this in mind it

is felt there is insufficient information to apply Fleischmann's theories in

completeness and further research into his work is essential for modeling to be based

on the above. Indeed it may be concluded that for any significance to be founded

upon results from Fleischmann's theories, compartment and opening geometry must

82
be similar. Scaling is accounted for by using characteristic dimensions of velocity

etc.

Therefore, unfortunately our model with the Giselsson Box does not really apply.

The compartment geometry being very different from Fleischmann' s gravity current

compartment, the opening being sited well above the bottom of the tank. Also due

to the unavailability of methane at the time of the tests, propane produced a reverse

gravity current to that of Fleischmann's, the incoming fluid being less dense than the

outgoing fluid, hence the effect is inverted.

However, in his work Fleischmann does not appear to concern himself with any

contributions from the 'step' of the opening when the current enters the

compartment and any subsequent effects this may have upon its velocity, i.e. slot

and window opening geometry' s. Therefore, taking this into consideration it was

felt that an initial velocity for a gravity current may be calculated. Results using this

methodology were very similar to those obtained using the emSE calculation for

the rate of ventilation into a room with a single ventilation opening. Upon

reflection this is not unrealistic as such a relationship describes ventilation driven by

the buoyant stack effect and assumes a neutral plane. This assumption of a neutral

plane is akin to a gravity current with entering and exiting flows.

The application of these two models was of limited use as any gravity current can

only realistically be expected to survive the length of the compartment although

possibly it may be anticipated to be reflected off the far wall and return towards the

83
opening. Eventually, diffusion and turbulence at the interface of the fluids, and the

break up of the head of the gravity current due to the formation of lobes and bellows

[20] will cause substantial mixing of the fluids .

Fleischmann's model relies upon the movement of the gravity current across the

floor to the ignition source. In the Giselsson Box, however, the ignition source and

the position of the ventilation opening prevent the time to combustion being wholly

reliant upon a gravity current. The time to combustion may be considered as being

reliant upon the following:-

TIME TO = 1'rIME.FOR.AlR.TD.ENfER + TMIXING + I;NDUCTION


COMBUSTION

Consideration of this relationship will show that the time to induction is negligible

in comparison for the time for air to enter the compartment and subsequently mix.

From the calculations it was estimated that an initial ventilation rate could be

anticipated. However, the degree of mixing could not be calculated. A very 'broad

brush' approach was then taken, assuming the amount of propane lost per second

was at the initial ventilation rate. The time to reduce a homogeneous mixture down

to its U .E.L. at this loss rate was then used to calculate a time to ignition. The

results of such a calculation are not unreasonable in magnitude but there is

insufficient data to give any reliance upon such an approach.

84
Both of the theoretical models based upon buoyancy driven flow depend upon the

fluids not mixing to any appreciable extent. However, mixing is required for

combustion to take place at the interface boundary.

Consideration was given to the idea that mixing may occur at a much earlier instant

in time when the compartment is ventilated. Indeed if it is assumed that the ambient

gas enters and forms a homogeneous mixture with the gas within the compartment,

an exponential decay in concentration of the propane may then be assumed. This is

akin to natural ventilation of a room that contains a contaminant, dilution of which

occurs using fresh uncontaminated air. This methodology was used to derive a

theoretical ventilation rate for the mixture of propane and air to be reduced to its

D.E.L. This was achieved by regarding the point of combustion as attainment of the

upper explosive limit. Results achieved by such calculations were remarkably close

to figures obtained for buoyancy driven flows. However, some experiments showed

large discrepancies and these are considered below.

6.2 (i) Ghosting Flames and Other Effects.

Examination of the times obtained to ignition shows that there is reasonably large

deviations between experiments where identical ventilation openings are assumed.

Explanation of these deviations may be considered by observing the video evidence

with regard to the production of ghosting flames .

85
Ghosting Flames as reported by Sugawa, Kawagoe and Oka [23] and also

Fleischmann [18] may be partly responsible for some of the variations of the times

to combustion. A ghosting flame is a flame that has become detached from the fuel

surface (in the case of liquids and solids) and exist suspended in the combustion

compartment. In our case, however, there is no fuel surface and a ghosting flame

may be considered as a localised burning phenomenon occurring at a location in

space without combustion occurring throughout the whole of the compartment. As

reported by Kawagoe et al[23], ghosting flames appear when ventilation to a

compartment is low and the subsequent oxygen concentration is also very low.

Hence, with a drift of the flammability range due to elevated temperatures

combustion may occur where under normal ambient conditions it could not be

considered. This phenomenon is clearly demonstrated in experiments 9 when local

heating by the electric arc allows combustion to commence probably by a shift in the

flammability limits. The strength of the ignition source (total energy available) will

also have an effect as described by Dougal Drysdale in his book 'Introduction to Fire

Dynamics' [4].

The result of this is a vertical flame extending from the ignition source to the top of

the compartment for a period of time without ignition occurring elsewhere.

Eventually due to further entrainment of ambient air and the subsequent thermal

effects of such a ghosting flame a general combustion takes place. This phenomenon

varies greatly with the initial gas temperature and it was realised that the heating of

86
the tank from previous experiments occurred to an extent to effect the flammability

limits of the propane. Changes in temperature would also alter the density of the

fue1Jair mixture within the box to some extent resulting in a change of the

ventilation rates.

In experiment 9 an initial combustion did not take place throughout the

compartment. A pulsation of flame was observed in and out of the ventilation

opening. Such effects may be attributed to combustion depending upon the

ventilation rate (or ventilation factor), ventilation being inadequate to support

general combustion throughout the compartment. This results in a hydrodynamic

instability causing a pulsation sequence of the flame.

6.2 (ii) Ventilation Factor.

Although the results obtained upon initial inspection do not show consistency in

relation to the time of ignition and the size of ventilation opening, it may be

explained to some extent by variations in temperature of the Giselsson Box.

It was found that significant heating of the box occurred between experiments

effectively altering the flammable limits and density of the propane/air mixture

contained within. It may be observed from the graphical representation of the time

to ignition against a ventilation factor AH II2 , that a general trend between

experiments 8, 9 and 10, 11 respectively is evident, due to these experiments

87
occurring sequentially to each other(See Fig 19). The large discrepancy in times for

each pair of results may possibly be attributed to the time delay between

experiments 9 and 10.

Consideration would have to be given to future work repeating a more detailed and

accurate set of experiments to elucidate whether a relationship does exist between

the ventilation factor AHI I2 and the time to ignition. It would be necessary,

however, to repeat for several compartment geometry' s with strict measurement of

the fuel loxidant ratio. Such analysis would be in keeping with the theories of

Fleischmann and the relationship given in the CIBSE Guide. Such an approach

would probably yield a more general relationship giving perhaps a geometrical

factor for the location of the ventilation opening in relation to the compartment.

6.2(iii) Rates of Flame Propagation.

By implication the measurement of flame Propagation through a compartment

assumes a degree of pre-mixing (diffusion flames do not have flame speeds). The

rate of flame Propagation through a mixture is dependent upon the velocity of the

combustible medium itself and may be related to the fundamental flame velocity by

the relationship given earlier (See Chapter 4).

The intention of measuring the rate of flame Propagation through the Giselsson Box

was to observe whether any dependency of the flame velocity may be attributed to

88
the size of the ventilation opening and hence the incoming' gravity current' or flow

of gases. Flame velocities were obtained by use of the digital video camera (Table

4), However, difficulty was experienced in determining the origin of Propagation in

some of the tests, often the centre of combustion was removed from the ignition

source.

Examination of the table of results shows that in many instances the rate of flame

Propagation is close to the literature value of O.4m1s for propane at its stoichiometric

ratio with air for a laminar pre-mixed flame[4]. Deviations from this figure are due

to several reasons. These are as listed below:-

l)The effects of buoyancy.

2)The effects of temperature

3)The effects of turbulence

4 )The effects of the concentration of the fuel.

6.2 (iv) Fire Box.

Fire Box experiments were performed in order to see if a thermal image may be

obtained of air entering the box, and hot gases leaving the box prior to and during a

backdraught. Backdraught conditions were obtained within the box by ignition of

the chipboard lining. A fully developed fire ensues within the open compartment

displayed by the temperature time curves obtained from thermo-couple data. It was

then found if the box was 'closed down' by the manual application of a door across

89
the aperture, backdraught conditions were realised. Pyrolysis of the chipboard

continues after combustion ceases internally, due to oxygen depletion, hot

flammable gases collecting within the box. When the box was opened, often auto-

ignition of the hot gases occurred, or the inrush of ambient air re-ignited the

chipboard providing an ignition source. Video evidence also showed that if the

gases were sufficiently hot, auto-ignition could occur when the hot gases were

forced out of the compartment past the imperfect door seal due to the pressure

within.

Although these fire box tests demonstrate clearly the mechanism for a backdraught

to occur, analysis of the time temperature curves proves difficult. 't (response time

63% of step change) for the thermo-couples used is typically 10m secs. but

unfortunately, due to the nature of these tests it is often difficult to assimilate

whether temperature fluctuations are due to a backdraught or re-ignition (hence

higher heat output) of the linings of the box when the compartment is vented.

Thermal imaging also proved to be disappointing. The thermal images obtained

were a 'snapshot' in time and although clearly demonstrating the high temperatures

obtainable in a compartment fire and the subsequent extent of a fire ball produced

by a backdraught, they could not show the origin and movement of the fire ball

produced. A moving thermal image would be required, the software for such

analysis was unavailable at the time of these experiments.

90
Thermal images of the fire box did not in all cases show the temperature of the gases

within. When the door is removed, hot gases escape via the upper reaches of the

opening whilst cool ambient gases enter along the floor of the compartment. This

results in rapid cooling of the gases often below the temperature of the radiating

surface linings of the box, the thermal image subsequently given is that of the

lining.

Analysis of the temperature time graphs does demonstrate the stratification in

temperature over the height of the box even with such small dimensions.

Differences could also be noted front to back and inspection of the graphs also

shows a temperature inversion occurring between the thermo-couples in the lower

regions of the box. This possibly may be caused by the combustion of the floor

lining material producing local heating, the lower thermo-couples therefore,

becoming less sensitive to gas temperature changes within the box.

Any further analysis of this type would need greater control. The frequency of door

openings to the compartment would need to be reduced and perhaps a smaller fire

loading (minimum for a backdraught to occur) also considered. A geometry similar

to a typical room or compartment would be beneficial, the experiments may then be

concluded in tandem with flammable gas experiments, i.e. Giselsson type box to

identify whether any correlation could be found. Prohibitive to this type of work are

the health and safety implications and the availability of a safe area to carry out such

91
research. These latter limitations being prohibitive to the repetition of the above

experiment.

7. CONCLUSIONS.

The initial aim of this dissertation was to review the current knowledge and thinking

with regard to backdraught. It has been shown that backdraught has recently come

to the fore in fire service training in the light of the recent fatal incident at Blania,

Gwent [3]. In his investigation, Dr. Thomas of the F.R.D.G. stated that the cause of

the death of two fire fighters was indeed a backdraught phenonomen.

As a result of this incident, and the subsequent H.S.E. improvement notice issued

upon Gwent Fire Authority, backdraught and flashover training have become the

concern of all Fire Brigades throughout the country. However, as this dissertation

has shown the two terms often appear synonymous with each other, particularly

through the concepts of Giselsson and Rosander [8].

It was found that terminology used by these authors was conflicting with concepts

used by Fire Scientists in Britain and America, and the suggestion made that their

terminology should be avoided. However, some of their concepts are worthy of

investigation and require further work by the fire science community.

92
At this juncture the concept of a backdraught has been fIrmly established. This

phenomenon is caused by the build up of unburned pyrolysis products (pyrozylates)

within a compartment due to incomplete combustion resulting from inadequate

ventilation of the fire. The resulting backdraught being caused by increased

ventilation to the compartment forming a flammable mixture of pyrozylates; ignition

of which causes a deflagration depending upon the history of the accumulation of

flammable products within the compartment.

Theoretical concepts were also considered. Dr. Martin Thomas et al [17] developed

the idea of quasi-steady state analysis with regard to explaining the growth and

development of a compartment fIre. It was shown that this analysis is based upon

the ideas of Semenov with regard to a thermal explosion; and in tum lead to the

development of such analysis to explain the flashover and backdraught phenomena.

Indeed it was shown that the potential energy of a backdraught may possibly be

calculated by such a technique.

An appraisal of work by C.M. Fleischmann [18, 19,20] was also carried out. Ideas

developed by C.M. Fleischmann et al considered that the delay to ignition of a

flammable mixture within a compartment is dependent upon the gravity current

entering the said compartment. It was found that further investigation would be

required into the mathematical approach used by Fleischmann to fully appreciate

some of the concepts he has used in this paper. However, it was elucidated that his

model depended heavily upon the compartment and opening geometry, relationships

93
given breaking down if such geometry's were departed from to any extent. It was

also found that relationships given by C.M. Fleischmann were very similar to semi-

empirical relationships given in the CIBSE Guide for the ventilation of ambient air

into a compartment with a single opening. This is not unreasonable, as such

relationships are governed by the stack effect and describe a buoyancy driven flow

with a neutral plane. Indeed, calculations using such a relationship were compared

with those postulated by C.M. Fleischmann, both giving comparable results.

Experimental work carried out for the dissertation also showed that these

relationships could not describe ventilation of the compartment beyond the time that

the gravity current ceased to exist, i.e. when mixing becomes significant. It was

suggested that the time to combustion depended upon the time for the gravity

current to enter and the subsequent time for mixing. The relationship below may be

considered: -

TCOMBUSTION = TAIR .TO.ENTER + TMIX + ~NDUCTION

The predominance of the two variables T AIR.TO.ENTER and T AIR .TO.MIX. ' upon the time to

combustion will depend upon the compartment geometry and relative position of the

ventilation opening to any ignition source. A further complication will be the

temperature and composition of the flammable gas. This was demonstrated to some

extent by the use of the Giselsson Box.

94
Consideration was also given to the relationship governing dilution ventilation and

the calculation of a ventilation rate necessary to achieve the U.E.L. at the time of

combustion. It was recognised that this model was incorrect but lay at the other

extreme to the concepts suggested by Fleischmann, and perhaps a more correct

model may exist somewhere in between the two approaches.

Further experimental work was also performed using a Fire Box. It was hoped that

work carried out by analysis of this item of equipment may clearly show the

development of a gravity current and ignition of the gases at the interface boundary.

However, due to reasons explained in the previous text the work was inconclusive

with respect to this methodology. It was felt that the use of such equipment may be

extended and the techniques improved to investigate further quasi-steady state

analysis.

The construction of a scaled compartment where heat losses and heat outputs may

be accurately measured and calculated (thermal image camera) may be used to

validate the ideas of Dr. Thomas et al. The use of variable ventilation openings and

geometry's would also permit further investigation to be completed with regard to

the formation of gravity currents and rates of ventilation, when compared to the time

to combustion. The use of realistic fuel sources with known heats of combustion

and the ability to produce a backdraught would also be a sound directive.

95
In conjunction with the use of realistic fuel sources, analytical chemical techniques

could be elucidated to attempt to accurately identify chemical species within the

smoke. The use of such techniques would involve either direct line sampling or

furnace techniques to pyrolyse the sample under variable atmospheric conditions(see

Appendix C). However, the limitations of such analysis should be bourne in mind

when extrapolating data to the fire compartment.

The further use of instrumentation, such as that used in the course of this

dissertation, for instance the thermal image camera and real time video footage,

should also be extended. Both of these items of equipment arte powerful tools for

the analysis of flame and fIre ball propagation. In the case of the thermal image

camera the availability of software or a suitable video link to provide continuous

imagery would prove essential in this type of analysis.

Further investigative work could also be carried out with similar experiments to

those of the Giselsson Box, and those of C.M. Fleischmann using flammable gas/air

mixtures and perhaps comparable salt water models. The use of variable

compartment geometry and ventilation openings coupled with the ability to relocate

the ignition source could be used to investigate the time to combustion when

compared with ventilation factor AH II2. The possibility of this approach would

allow a geometric factor to be introduced for the size and the geometry of the

compartment.

96
From the above it can be seen that there is still a great deal of investigation possible

into various backdraught scenarios and an understanding of the mechanism leading

to the deflagration and the extent of such a flame front. Indeed with modem

building practices it is suggested that this type of scenario will become more

prevalent endangering the lives of Fire Service personnel. From this viewpoint

alone, without regard to potential property loss and damage the phenomenon is

worthy of more investigation. Gaining an understanding of the mechanism involved

would enable a fundamental approach to be adopted when encountering such fires

where the possibility of this type of phenomenon exists.

97
APPENDIXA .

FLAMMABILITY LIMITS

Any flammable gas when mixed with air will show upper and lower flammability

limits (U.E.L's and L.E.L's respectively). The most extensive review was by

Zabetakis (1965) [16] using Bureau of Mines apparatus, the results of which are still

relied upon today.

Flammability limits are affected by both pressure and temperature, the main effect

being that of temperature. For a flame to propagate through a medium there must be

sufficient thermal energy to sustain the chemical reaction. As the concentration of

the flammable gas is reduced in air, the amount of heat energy released from the

combustion reaction is insufficient to heat the atmosphere locally, to a point where

propagation of the flame is maintained, i.e. too much heat energy is lost to the

ambient air for reactant molecules to maintain their activation energy. We can see

from this that if the ambient temperature increases less energy is lost by the system

(reactant molecule) to the surroundings, hence flame propagation may occur at much

lower concentrations. The same argument may be used for the uppers limits,

however, in this case the reactant flammable gas itself becomes the heat sink. It may

also be noted the auto ignition composition range is altered significantly by

temperature and is important in the study of backdraught. An ideal mixture is

equivalent to the stoichiometric mixture for the reactants.

98
APPENDIXB

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Pyrolysis:- The word Pyro -lysis means "death due to heat", or more idiomatically,

the thermal decomposition of a substance. When we are considering the thermal

decomposition of solids, i.e. wood,this usually involves the breaking of bonds

within the chemical structure, to release volatile substances which are able to burn.

The chemical and physical state of the original substance is permanently changed.

This is in contrast to liquids which usually evaporate or form a combustible vapour,

When the heat source is removed the liquid usually remains chemically unchanged.

Flame:- A spatial domain where a rapid exothermic chemical reaction takes place,

often emitting light.

Detonation:- A detonation is a combustion process initiated by a shock wave. The

subsequent heating of the gas by the pressure wave initiates the reaction resulting in

propagating the shock wave through the mixture at supersonic velocity.

Deflagration:- The movement of a flame front through a reactive mixture, the

propagation occurring at subsonic velocity. A deflagration does not involve shock

or compression and hence pressure differentials are negligible across the flame front.

99
APPENDIXC

CHEMICAL ANALYSIS

A preliminary investigation was made into the use of gas chromatography and mass

spectrometry as a method of determining the nature of smoke species in a

backdraught scenario.

Gas chromatography works by separation of the components of a mobile fluid phase

passing over a stationary adsorbent phase. Components of the mobile phase are

adsorbed onto the surface of the stationary phase at different rates depending upon

the nature and size of the molecular species. Release from the adsorbent surface also

occurs at different rates. This allows separation of the components of the fluid phase

to be made, depending upon their molecular size and weight, by passage of the fluid

through a long column packed with a suitable stationary phase. The subsequent

peaks as each component is eluded from the column may then be used as a

'fingerprint' technique to identify the original substance.

However, if the output of the column is connected in line with a mass spectrometer,

analysis of each peak may be carried out when each component is eluded from the

column. The mass spectrometer works by ionisation of the components using an

electron gun. The molecules of each component are either ionised remaining intact,

or undergo fragmentation into smaller ions each with a distinct mass/charge

ratio(m/e). These ions are then separated in the mass spectrometer by acceleration

between two charged plates and passage through a magnetic field. The difference in

100
the mass/charge ratio of each different type of ion permits separation by the

magnetic field into individual ion beams which are focused onto a detector. The

detector then measures the relative intensity of each beam and displays the results as

a mass spectrum.

A computer data base of library results of mass spectra of different compounds may

then be used to identify the components of the fluid separated by the gas

chromatograph. This is possible due to the fact that many compounds give distinct

mass spectra, the peaks of mass/charge ratio occurring at specific relative intensities.

In the preliminary tests both chipboard and polyurethane foam were analysed, both

common materials found in domestic and commercial properties. Pyrolysis of these

products was undertaken under an inert atmosphere. Using such an atmosphere

would probably have affected the nature of the pyrolysis products, however, for a

backdraught to occur the oxygen concentration within a compartment would be

substantially reduced.

The inert atmosphere(helium)also acted as the carrier gas for the column of the gas

chromatograph. Pyrolysis was carried out at a range of temperatures, by placing a

small sample on wires formed from Curie Point alloys. These alloys are of nickel

alloy, and when subjected to a high frequency induction coil, are heated to a specific

temperature dependent upon the composition of the alloy.

101
This is known as the curie point and is the temperature when the alloy becomes

paramagnetic, and its energy intake drops, thus holding the temperature constant.

The experimental details are given below:-

PERKIN ELMER 85000 GAS CHROMATOGRAPH coupled to PERKIN ELMER

ION TRAP DETECTOR.

Column details:-

Carrier gas helium.

Column oven @ 50°C up to 250°C at a ramp rate of 20°C/min

Run time 15 mins

Curie Point Wires

Temperatures used:- 358, 480,510,610, and 770°C. Each sample held at this

temperature for 5 sec.

Results from the chipboard were negative. This was because of the difficulty

experienced in getting such a small sample of chipboard to pyrolyse, with only a

small contact area of sample being against the curie point wire. This indicated that

another method would be required to pyrolyse the chipboard samples, such as a

small furnace.

Results obtained for the polyurethane foam were more encouraging, spectra being

obtained over several Curie Point temperatures. However, identification of the peaks

102
and subsequent parent molecules proved difficult even using the extensive data base

library of mass spectra held within the computer' s memory.

It was felt at this point that for such analysis to be continued any further would be

beyond the scope of this dissertation. The amount of work involved would be

worthy of a dissertation its own right. However, these analytical techniques offer a

powerful tool and there are many texts available on them[24]. It is felt that results

obtained from such analysis would require careful consideration when extrapolating

to fires within a compartment. Regard would need to given as to the nature of the

sample and pyrolysis techniques used. Investigation into the use of these techniques

may include the effects of the size and shape of the sample, pyrolysis temperature

and nature of the atmosphere(carrier gas).

103
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Author - Croft W.M.

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9. B.S.4422. British Standard Glossary of Terms Associated with Fire Part 1.

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106
11. Survey of Backdraught. - Pub. by F.RD.G. Publication 5/94.

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107
20. Salt Water Modeling of Compartment Gravity Currents. - Author

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21. Turbulent Gravitational Convection from Maintained and

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F.R.S. , and l.S. Turner. Pub. Royal Society Proceedings 1956 pages 1-23.

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Author. Osami Sugawa, Kunio Kawagoe, Yasushi Oka and Iichi Ogahara.

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108
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10. A Model for Predicting Concentrations of Carbon Monoxide in

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19. Radio Spares Catalogue. Sensorrrransducers Page 1-869

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11 1
APPENDIXD.

The following appendix contains the time/temperature curves for the fire box

experiments. To enable easier analysis of the graph on page lOla, it has been

expanded along the 'x' axis, time intervals of 300sec considered on each of the

following graphs pages 102b-l 02g.

104
TEMPERATUREICELCIUS
~ ~

N ~ O'l ex> 0 N
0 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0
42
84
126
168
210
252
294
336
378
420
462
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546
588
630
672
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1176 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
iii' iii' iii' iii' iii' iii' iii' iii' iii'
(Jl (Jl (Jl (Jl (Jl (Jl (Jl (Jl (Jl
1218 <0 ex> -"j O'l (J1 ~ c...> N ~

1260
1302
1344
1386
1428
1470
1512
1554
1596
1638
1680
1722
1764
FIRE BOX TESTS

TIME PERIOD 0-300 Sees

1000

- - Series1
900 - - Series2
- - Series3
- - Series4
800 - - Series5
- - Series6
- - Series7
700 - - Series8
- - Series9
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TIME/Secs

101b
FIRE BOX TESTS

TIME PERIOD 300-600 Sees


1000

900

800

700

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::> 600
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::>
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- - Series?
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- - Series8
- - Series9

100

o
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TIME/Secs

101c
FIRE BOX TESTS

TIME PERIOD 600-900 Sees

1000

900

800

700

en
::l
U 600
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t-
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W
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w
t- Series3
- - Series4
300 - - Series5
- - Series6
- - Series7
200 - - Series8
- - Series9

100

##~~##~,#~#"#~~~~~~~~~~~#,~~###,#~,,,
TIME/Sees

101d
FIR E BOX TE STS

TIME PERIOD 900-1200 Secs

1000

900

800

?OO

(/)

:2 600
0
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W
0
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~ 500
~

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w
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~
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Series3
300 - - Series4
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200 I - - Series?
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- - Series9
100

o ,~--------------------------------------------------- __________-J

##~~#~~$#~~~~~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~###~$$####~~~$~~~$$~~~~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

TlMElSecs

101e
FIRE BOX TESTS

TIME PERIOD 1200-1500 Secs

900 r-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------~

800

700

600
en
=>
(3
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W
u 500
ill
0:::
=>
I-
~ 400 - - Series1
w
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w
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300
- - Series5
- - Series6
- - Series7
200
- - Series8
- - Series9

100

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TIME/Sees

101f
TEMPERA TURE/CELCIUS
->.
N ~ en ()) 0 N
0 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1500
1506
1512
1518
1524
1530
1536
1542
1548
1554
1560
1566
1572
1578
1584
1590
1596
1602
1608 ~
3:
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1620 m
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1668
1674
1680
1686
1692
1698
1704
1710
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C/) C/)
1722 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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1728 <D ()) -..J en c..n ~ VJ N ~

1734
1740
1746
1752
1758
1764 I
J
APPENDIXE

PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE GISELSSON BOX

105
APPENDIXF

THERMAL IMAGES FROM THE INFRAMETRICS PM250 THERMACAM

106
APPENDIXG

PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE FIRE BOX IN USE

107
(