The piloted transition to flaming in smoldering fire retarded and non-fire retarded polyurethane foam

Olivier M. Putzeys, A. Carlos Fernandez-Pello, Guillermo Rein, David L. Urban

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The piloted transition from smoldering to flaming, though a significant fire safety concern, has not been previously extensively studied. Experimental results are presented on the piloted transition from smoldering to flaming in non-fire retarded (NFR) polyurethane foam and the fire retarded polyurethane foam Pyrell®. The samples are small blocks, vertically placed in the wall of an upward wind tunnel. The free surface is exposed to an oxidizer flow and a radiant heat flux. The smolder product gases pass upwards through a pilot. The experiments on NFR foam show that the smolder velocity and peak smolder temperature, which increase with the oxygen concentration and heat flux, are strongly correlated to the transition to flaming event, in that there are minimum values of these parameters for transition to occur. The existence of a minimum smolder velocity for ignition supports the concept of a gaseous mixture reaching a lean flammability limit as the criterion for the transition to flaming. To compensate for the solid- and gas-phase effects of the fire retardants on the piloted transition in Pyrell, it was necessary to increase the oxygen concentration and the power supplied to the smolder igniter and the pilot. The piloted transition is observed in oxygen concentrations above 17% in NFR foam and above 23% in Pyrell. The results show that although Pyrell is less flammable than NFR foam, it is still susceptible to smoldering and the piloted transition to flaming in oxygen-enriched environments, which is of interest for special applications such as future space missions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-499
Number of pages15
JournalFire and Materials
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • smoldering
  • transition to flaming
  • piloted ignition
  • polyurethane foam
  • fire retardants


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