Design and Fabrication of a Radiant Heating and Ignition Apparatus for Fire Testing

Photo of Benjamin Kobe, Daniel Pineda, Rachel Purvis, Bryan Stockberger Students: Benjamin Kobe, Daniel Pineda, Rachel Purvis, Bryan Stockberger

Sponsor: The University of Texas at Austin

Date: Spring 2012

Requirements:
The requirements and constraints were defined by the ASTM E1354 standard and the laboratory environment. Requirements included the power rating for the conical heater element, the load cell weight and accuracy, the spark ignition system voltage and frequency, the chassis material and size, and the control system interface. Constraints included budget, available space, electrical requirements, and laboratory safety.

Problem:
The goal of this project was to design and construct a low-cost and customized alternative to a commercially available mass loss calorimeter (MLC) for investigating the heat release rate (HRR) and flammability of various materials in fire testing. The HRR is considered the most significant prediction of fire hazard. This apparatus will assist researchers in obtaining data that will help various industries ensure the safety of their products and characterize how they are affected by extreme heat and fire. Fire safety officials can also use this data to better fight fires.

Solution:
The cost of the completed mass loss calorimeter is 25% of the cost of a commercial MLC. The MLC hardware consists of a chassis, conical heater element, load cell, various shielding and an electrical ignition apparatus. A control system and easy to use interface was also constructed to facilitate the use of the heater system and record important data. This complex system will record data that will help researchers advance the safety of materials used throughout society. The solid design and construction of the MLC promises to provide reliable data for years to come.

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