Worcester Polytechnic Institute Electronic Theses and Dissertations Collection

Title page for ETD etd-121409-192436

Document Typethesis
Author NameOverholt, Kristopher J
Email Address koverholt at gmail.com
TitleCharacterizing the Flammability of Storage Commodities Using an Experimentally Determined B-number
DepartmentFire Protection Engineering
  • Professor Ali Rangwala, Advisor
  • Dr. Kathy Notarianni, Department Head
  • Jonathan Perricone, Committee Member
  • Keywords
  • upward flame spread
  • flame height
  • commodity classification
  • B number
  • warehouse fire
  • scale modeling
  • Date of Presentation/Defense2009-12-02
    Availability unrestricted


    In warehouse storage applications, it is important to classify the burning behavior of commodities and rank them according to material flammability for early fire detection and suppression operations. In this study, the large-scale effects of warehouse fires are decoupled into separate processes of heat and mass transfer. As a first step, two nondimensional parameters are shown to govern the physical phenomena at the large-scale, a mass transfer number, and the soot yield of the fuel which controls the radiation observed in the large-scale. In this study, a methodology is developed to obtain a mass-transfer parameter using mass-loss (burning rate) measurements from bench-scale tests. Two fuels are considered, corrugated cardboard and polystyrene. Corrugated cardboard provides a source of flaming combustion in a warehouse and is usually the first item to ignite and sustain flame spread. Polystyrene is typically used as the most hazardous product in large-scale fire testing. A mixed fuel sample (corrugated cardboard backed by polystyrene) was also tested to assess the feasibility of ranking mixed commodities using the bench-scale test method. The nondimensional mass transfer number was then used to model upward flame propagation on 20-30 foot stacks of Class III commodity consisting of paper cups packed in corrugated cardboard boxes on rack-storage. Good agreement was observed between the model and large-scale experiments during the initial stages of fire growth.

  • koverholt.pdf

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