Kun Zhao, Michael J. Gollner, Qiong Liu, Junhui Gong, Lizhong Yang
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Behavior

NRFSN number: 20995
FRAMES RCS number: 60504
Record updated: April 8, 2020

In wildland and other flame spread scenarios a spreading fire front often forms an elliptical shape, incorporating both forward and lateral spread. While lateral flame spread is much slower than forward rates of spread, it still contributes to the growth of the overall fire front. In this work, a small-scale experiment is performed to investigate the mechanisms causing this lateral spread in a simple, small-scale configuration. PMMA strips with thicknesses ranging from 1 mm to 3.1 mm and widths of 5 cm and 10 cm were ignited under forced flow in a laminar wind tunnel. Unlike traditional concurrent or opposed flame spread experiments, flames were allowed to progress from one side of the sample to the other, perpendicular to the wind direction. An infrared camera was used to track the progression of the pyrolysis front by estimating the surface temperature of the PMMA. The flame spread rate, depth of the burning region, thermal diffusion length, and radiant heat flux were determined and analyzed. Based on a theory of heat and mass transfer for a laminar diffusion flame, a thermal heat transfer model was developed for the preheating region to predict the lateral flame spread rate. Results show that the thermal diffusion length decreases with wind velocity, ranging from 4.5 mm to 3 mm. Convection dominates the flame-spread rate, accounting for more than 80% of the total heat flux. The theoretical flame spread rate agrees well with experimental data from all but the thinnest samples tested, overpredicting the lateral flame spread rate for 1 mm thick samples. The resulting model for lateral flame spread under concurrent flow works for forced-flow dominated flame spread over thermally-thin fuels and helps provide physical insight into the problem, aiding in future development of two-dimensional, elliptical fire spread models.


Zhao, Kun; Gollner, Michael J.; Liu, Qiong; Gong, Junhui; Yang, Lizhong. 2020. Lateral flame spread over PMMA under forced air flow. Fire Technology 56(2):801-820.

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