Experimental investigation of effects of variation in heating rate, temperature and heat flux on fire properties of a non-charring polymer

  • Ariza S. Abu-Bakar
  • Marlene J. Cran
  • Khalid A. M. MoinuddinEmail author


During fire, charring and non-charring polymers undergo reactions in the solid phase (pyrolysis) and in the gas phase (combustion). These reactions can be modelled using computational fluid dynamics-based fire modelling for the prediction of fire growth and spread. Given that many fire properties vary with temperature including heating rate and radiation flux, improvements in fire simulations can be made by accounting for these variations. This study characterizes the fire properties of the non-charring synthetic polymer poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) for coupled pyrolysis and combustion simulation. Under pyrolysis, the heat of reaction of PMMA varies with heating rate due the change in residence time facilitating volatilization at any given temperature, particularly at higher heating rates. As a result, the volatiles are formed when the sample has reached higher temperature and therefore more heat flow is needed to assist this process at higher heating rates. Similarly, combustion parameters are also found to vary with the incident radiation flux; however, the variation is relatively minimal. In this study, thermal conductivity and specific heat capacity did not vary with temperature for PMMA.


Pyrolysis Combustion Chemical kinetics Heat of reaction Heating rate Effective heat of combustion 

List of symbols


Pre-exponential factor, s−1


Area under the peak, m2


Area under the curve, m2


Specific heat capacity, J kg−1 °C−1


Activation energy, kJ min−1


Effective heat of combustion, kJ kg−1


Heat of reaction, kJ kg−1


Heat release rate, kW


Conductivity, W m−1 °C−1


Mass loss rate, m2 kg−1


Moisture content, %


Sample mass at the approximation


Mass loss rate per unit area, kg m−2 s−1


Reaction order

\(\dot{q}_{\text{c}}^{{\prime \prime }}\)

Convective heat flux, kW m−2

\(\dot{q}_{\text{r}}^{{\prime \prime }}\)

Radiative heat flux, kW m−2


Universal gas constant, J kg−1 mol−1 K−1


Specific extinction area, m2 kg−1




Temperature, °C or K


Peak 1 integration temperature, °C


Peak 2 integration temperature, °C


Time, s


Mass loss fraction


Weight fraction of conversion


Fraction of ith gaseous products yield


Pyrolysis rate


Heating rate


Instantenous sample mass, mg


Initial sample mass, mg


Final sample mass, mg


Final sample mass (cone), mg


Initial sample mass (cone), mg


dT/dt or heating rate, K s−1


Heat flow into DSC sample, mW


Normalized enthalpy, kJ kg−1


Heat of reaction, kJ kg−1


Heat of reaction in fire model, kJ kg−1


Normalized HoR, kJ kg−1


Enhanced HoR, kJ kg−1


Density, kg m−3


Yield of solid residue, %



The authors wish to acknowledge the technical and financial assistance provided by Omnii Pty Ltd, Xtralis and Scientific Fire Services. The authors also acknowledge stimulating discussions with Dr. Yun Jiang of Xtralis. Ariza S. Abu-Bakar was a Ph.D. candidate at Victoria University funded by Universiti Sains Malaysia and currently employed by the same university.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Housing, Building and PlanningUniversiti Sains MalaysiaGeorge TownMalaysia
  2. 2.Centre for Environmental Safety and Risk EngineeringVictoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable CitiesVictoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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