Department develops strong partnership with FM Global

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FM Global Welcome Center sign and window display of water mist fire suppression system.

The new FM Global Welcome Center in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) is now fully operational. The Center provides a comfortable environment for prospective students, visitors and members of the Department. A flat screen display provides information concerning careers in fire protection engineering and research activities within the Department and at other major research facilities (e.g., the flat screen currently displays a presentation of activities at the FM Global Research Campus in West Glocester, RI.) Surrounding the screen are graphics that highlight the challenges, opportunities and rewards of the FPE profession, showcasing alumni of the Department and some of their exciting experiences.

The Welcome Center is made possible through a generous gift from FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial property insurers and a recognized leader in scientific property loss prevention research. The gift was formally received on May 9 2007, during an official visit from FM Global’s Lou Gritzo, Vice President and Manager of Research, and Bob Bill, Assistant Vice President and Director of Fire Hazards and Protection Research Area.

The gift from FM Global is also used towards the construction and equipment of a new experimental Laboratory, called the FM Global Fire Phenomena Laboratory. The Fire Phenomena Laboratory, currently under construction in the J.M. Patterson Building and scheduled to open during Summer 2008, will provide state-of-the-art facilities to support technical excellence in research and education. The 1000 ft2 laboratory will offer a unique and controlled environment for conducting sophisticated laboratory-scale fire experiments. This laboratory will house a salt-water facility for exploring fire induced flows, a 6 ft x 12 ft vibration-isolated optical breadboard for studying detailed flame characteristics, and modular workspaces for a variety of bench-scale experiments. Advanced diagnostics including Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV), Planar Laser Induced Fluorescence (PLIF), and thin filament pyrometry will be available in the laboratory. By applying advanced diagnostics to canonical fire configurations, the FM Global Fire Phenomena Laboratory will provide new knowledge to improve the theoretical understanding of fire dynamics. This new knowledge will yield in turn advances in the predictive capabilities of advanced fire modeling software, hence providing new tools to produce tangible improvements in fire hazard assessment and loss prevention.

Several ongoing research programs will benefit immediately from the FM Global Fire Phenomena Laboratory, including the projects entitled “Establishing Extinction Criteria for Fire” (NIST), “Fire Safety of Hydrogen Leaks” (NIST), “Sooting Limits of Diffusion Flames” (NASA), and “Laminar Smoke Points of Condensed Fuels” (Minta Martin). In addition, the state-of-the-art Fire Phenomena Laboratory will provide new funding opportunities for the growing research activities in the FPE Department.

A Strong Partnership between FM Global and the FPE Department

In addition to this gift, FM Global is also sponsoring individual research projects with Profs. André Marshall and Arnaud Trouvé. For instance, FM Global is sponsoring André Marshall’s joint experimental and computational project entitled “Atomization Modeling for Fire Suppression Injectors” (points of contact at FM Global: Drs. Bert Yu and Bob Bill). The project is focused on developing physics-based sub-models to facilitate the characterization and analysis of fire suppression injectors. Experimentally-derived near-field sprinkler characteristics are used to develop and evaluate models having varying degrees of fidelity. These models are based on scaling laws, wave dispersion physics, and first principles (using high-fidelity Computational Fluid Dynamics – CFD). A range of sprinkler geometries is explored in the research program. However, geometric complexity is introduced gradually and systematically. Experimental and modeling activities focused on canonical injector geometries provide insight into the essential physics governing sprinkler spray formation and the conceptual foundation for the various modeling approaches, while evaluation of more realistic injector geometries reveals specific atomization details required for improving the fidelity and accuracy of the models.

FM Global is also sponsoring Arnaud Trouvé’s computational research project entitled “CFD Modeling of Vertical Turbulent Wall Fires” (points of contact at FM Global: Drs. Prateep Chatterjee, John de Ris, Sergey Dorofeev and Bob Bill). The project is aimed at enhancing CFD-based fire modeling capabilities towards a treatment of wall fires. Wall fires represent a particularly challenging problem for CFD-based fire models since these configurations feature complex wall-bounded turbulent flow phenomena, fuel pyrolysis and combustion, mixed convective and radiative heat transfer, soot blockage, and characteristic length scales that are small and remain unresolved by the computational grid. The project uses the Fire Dynamics Simulator developed by the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The current phase of the research program is focused on predicting the convective/radiative wall heat flux distribution in simplified vertical wall configurations with a prescribed fuel mass loss rate. The modeling strategy follows previous theoretical developments made by de Ris et al. and considers different levels of computational grid resolution, from fine-grained to coarse-grained. The validation component of the project relies on detailed comparisons with an experimental database previously developed at FM Global.

Published December 16, 2007