Flame spread modeling using a computer zone model and full-scale room fire calibration

Faculty Advisor

Barnett, Jonathan R.

Faculty Advisor

Dembsey, Nicholas A.


The phenomenon of flame spread is neither fully understood nor accurately modeled. The purpose of the project was two-fold, to attempt to model flame spread using a zone fire model and to provide calibration data for that model. The algorithm for flame spread developed by James Quintiere was researched and added as a sub-routine to the CFAST program developed by NIST. The second aspect of the project involved full-scale room tests, conducted in accordance with ISO 9705 and ASTM E603, to provide calibration data. Screening samples of eight-layer glass reinforced plastics were ignited using varying size fires to track the critical ignition fire to force room flashover. Heat release rate data, burn patterns, and room temperature gradients were also recorded. The project has involved the coding of the algorithm, numerical analysis, construction of room fire instrumentation, and development of experimental protocols. As a result of this project, major steps were taken in developing a computer-based analytical tool for predicting material behavior during certain fire scenarios. Although the actual computer model did not produce reasonable results, a complete set of data has been collected for use in future model calibrations. From the data, heat release rates, temperature profiles, interface heights, vent flows, and heat fluxes can be calculated. In addition, means for correcting temperatures for radiation effects have been provided. From the data, a critical ignition strength for eight-layer GRP was bounded, and unique material burning behavior was identified. Recommendations are made for future work with composite materials computer modeling.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Date Accepted

January 1999


Mechanical Engineering

Project Type

Major Qualifying Project


Restricted-WPI community only

Advisor Department

Fire Protection Engineering

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