Faculty Advisor

Kathy A. Notarianni

Faculty Advisor

Andrew Coles

Faculty Advisor

Nicholas A. Dembsey


"Material property estimation method is developed with 1-D heat conduction model and bounding exercise for Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) analysis. The purpose of this study is to develop an unsophisticated tool to convert small scale cone calorimeter data into input data that can be used in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models to predict flame spread. Specific interests of input data for FDS in this study include thermal conductivity, specific heat, pre exponential factor, activation energy, heat of vaporization. The tool consists of two objects; 1-D model and bounding exercise. Main structure of the model is based on one of the thermal boundary conditions in the FDS, named as “Pyrolysis Model, Thermally-Thick Solid”, in which pyrolysis flux occurs on the surface of the object under radiant heat flux. This boundary condition is adopted because it has the best characteristics in the dynamics of modeling which are subject to our interests. The structure of the model is simple and concise. For engineering point of view, a practical model ought to have such simplicity that saves time and effort. Pyrolysis model in FDS meets this requirement. It is also a part of reason that this study is to develop a computational model which converts a set of data from the cone calorimeter test to a set of input data for FDS. A pyrolysis term on a surface of an object in this boundary condition will be playing an important role regarding a surface temperature and a mass loss rate of the object. Bounding exercise is introduced to guide proper outcome out of the modeling. Prediction of the material properties from the simulation is confirmed by the experimental data in terms of surface temperature history and mass loss rate under the bounding exercise procedure. For the cone calorimeter, thirteen different materials are tested. Test materials vary with their material composition such as thermoplastics, fiber reinforced plastics (FRP), and a wood. Throughout the modeling fed by a set of the cone calorimeter test data, estimated material properties are provided. So called “Bounding Exercise” is introduced here to draw the estimated material properties. Bounding exercise is a tool in order to guide the material property estimation procedure. Three sets of properties (Upper, Standard and Lower) are derived from the boundary exercise as recommended material properties. From the modeling results, PMMA shows the best agreement regarding the estimated material properties compared with already known results from the references. Wood indicates, however, somewhat different results, in which the mass loss rate takes a peak around the ignition and decreases sharply. This burning behavior can not be predicted using the “Pyrolysis Model”. The model in this study does not account so called “Charring Behavior” that a charring layer toward a surface or difference between a charred density in a charring layer and a normal density in a virgin layer of a wood. These factors result in a discrepancy of the estimated material properties with the reference data. Unlike PMMA and wood, FRP materials show a unique ignition characteristic. Mass loss rate history from some FRP materials indicate more a thermoplastic burning behavior and other materials tend to char. In addition there are few known material property data for theses materials and it is difficult to verify the results from this study with pre-existing data. Some plastic samples also indicate difficulties of the modeling. Because some samples melt and disfigure during the test, one dimensional heat transfer boundary condition is no longer applicable. Each bounding exercise results are fully examined and analyze in Chapter 6. Some of limitations contain model’s structural limitation, in which the model is too simple for certain cases, as well as limitations of bounding exercise. Finally, recommendations are made for future work including upgraded model accountable for the pyrolysis of charring material and FRP materials, data comparison with FDS results, and improved bounding exercise method."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Fire Protection Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





material property, thermometer, cone calorimeter, finite difference method, thermoplastic, pyrolysis model, fire dynamics simulators, Materials, Fire testing, Cone calorimeters