Fire safety in transportation systems is becoming increasingly important, as metal parts are replaced with plastics and composites in an effort to build more fuel efficient and lighter vehicles. As a result of these changes, in combination with the use new alternative and bio-fuels and modifications to engine systems, the nature, incidence and severity of transportation fires is likely to worsen.

At the large-scale, research has been undertaken, in collaboration with Sandia National Labs, relating to aviation fire safety. This involved full scale experiments to characterize the thermal fields developed in and around the fuselage in an aircraft crash scenario (fuel spill fire with a crosswind). The extensive data is being used in validation of computer tools for aircraft safety and design. Similar full-scale experiments could easily simulate other transportation accident scenarios by changing the size or geometric configuration of the test layout.

At a smaller-scale, research is being conducted into phenomena such as hot surface ignition of automotive fuels and the flammability and fire performance of fire retarded and non-fire retarded foams.

The Fire Research Lab is in an excellent position to extend research in the area of transportation fire safety. We are looking to extend our smaller-scale research into the fire performance of new materials and our large-scale burn enclosure can easily hold an entire road vehicle for burn tests under controlled wind conditions.