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Vytenis Babrauskas

Vytenis Babrauskas
Fire Science and Technology Inc. · --

A.B., M.S., Ph.D.

About

242
Publications
178,812
Reads
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6,535
Citations
Citations since 2016
25 Research Items
2524 Citations
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20162017201820192020202120220100200300400
20162017201820192020202120220100200300400
20162017201820192020202120220100200300400
Introduction
Dr. Babrauskas is a researcher in fire safety science, explosion safety, and electrical failures, fires and explosions. He works as an independent consultant, often as a forensic science consultant. He is best known for his invention of the Cone Calorimeter and the large-scale oxygen consumption calorimeter, and also for his Ignition Handbook, which is the only comprehensive treatise on this topic.
Additional affiliations
January 2002 - December 2002
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Position
  • Adjunct Full Professor
April 1993 - present
Fire Science and Technology Inc.
Position
  • CEO
Description
  • Research and consulting on fire and explosion safety; author, lecturer.
January 1977 - April 1993
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Position
  • Supervising fire protection engineer

Publications

Publications (242)
Article
Full-text available
In the investigation of fires, questions sometime arise concerning the potential ignition of wall surfaces. Often, the question is whether a certain fuel package, burning by itself, has the potential to ignite a given wall type. Two ancillary questions are also likely to arise: How does the distance of the fuel package from the wall affect the outc...
Article
Full-text available
Summary information about smoldering fires
Article
Results obtained from two accredited laboratories that regularly conduct ASTM E108 fire tests showed serious discrepancies. The source of the problem was identified to be errors in the ASTM E108 standard instructions for calibration of the fire test apparatus. The standard requires that the apparatus calibration achieve three criteria—two quantitat...
Chapter
Large-scale fire tests are commonly conducted as real-fire simulations; that is, a relevant fire scenario is constructed, and the object(s) are ignited by an ignition source which is deemed realistic. A different strategy, however, is needed for small-scale testing. It is generally not useful to construct miniatures of the real-fire environment. In...
Article
Full-text available
The Cone Calorimeter—ISO 5660 and ASTM E1354—has been the primary bench-scale test for measuring the heat release rate for fires ever since the early 1990s. The technical details of how to construct and operate the instrument has been well documented in the standards, in reports, and in published papers. But the background for its development had n...
Article
Fire models, or other fire safety engineering tools, may require that input data be supplied for characterizing the ignition of combustible solids. This may be done in ad hoc manner and result in poor realism for modeling the ignition process. Extensive research on the ignition of solid materials has been done in recent decades, notably in characte...
Article
Gases, vapors, liquid sprays, aerosols and other forms of ignitable fluids dispersed into the atmosphere, under certain circumstances, may encounter a hot surface. When investigating a fire, it may be necessary to determine in such cases if the hot surface was a competent ignition source. The paper reviews the available experimental data and findin...
Article
Full-text available
Fire protection - A remarkable success story (based on progressively decreasing life loss due to fire over a span of one century). Journal name: Fire Protection Engineering (not recognized by ResearchGate unfortunately)
Article
A strategy is formulated on how ammonium nitrate safety may be improved with regards to explosions. It is shown that, for ammonium nitrate in storage or in transport (as distinguished from manufacturing activities), there has been only one cause of explosions—uncontrolled fire. It is also identified that, given an uncontrolled fire impinging on a s...
Article
The thermal decomposition reactions of ammonium nitrate (AN) are reviewed. Both neat AN and AN containing various contaminants are examined, however quantitative kinetics results are not encompassed. Also not included is the performance of AN as the oxidizer in rocket propellants or in explosives such as ANFO. The review is intended to be the most...
Article
Research literature comparing room-scale combustion toxicity performance of construction products is compared to bench-scale results. It is demonstrated that it is inappropriate the regulate construction products on the basis of performance in bench-scale toxicity tests, while it is economically unsound to suggest requiring room-scale testing for a...
Article
Full-text available
A significant fraction of US structure fires originate in electrical wiring, and there is also reason to believe that these numbers may be systematically undercounted. The role of voltage surges and damaged insulation in creating the potential for fire is discussed. That damaged electrical insulation may lead to fire has been known for a century, y...
Article
Full-text available
Arc mapping is a method for graphically documenting a fire pattern which comprises arc marks on the wiring of a structure due to the effects of fire, with the goal of using this information to assist in establishing the area of origin of the fire. The concept was initially presented in 1955, but without any published science (experimental, theoreti...
Article
On 17 April 2013, the West Fertilizer Company’s ammonium nitrate storage building exploded, killing 15 persons and injuring over 200. Numerous Federal and State agencies regulated the facility. But none of the agencies demonstrated a viable understanding of what is liable to cause accidental ammonium nitrate explosions, nor what is needed to preven...
Article
On April 17, 2013, an explosion of ammonium nitrate (AN) fertilizer stored at the West Fertilizer Company resulted in 15 deaths, 260 injuries, and the destruction of a sizable portion of the town. AN fertilizer is classified as an oxidizer, not as an explosive; nonetheless, it is a chemical which can detonate, and there is a century's worth of hist...
Article
Database tabulations of minimum explosion concentration MEC for dust clouds often contain data values that are extremely low, i.e., 30 g m⁻³, or lower. Such values invariably represent measurement or analysis errors, often due to inadequate dust uniformity in the test vessel. There are only two organic vapors with MEC values below 30 g m⁻³, and it...
Article
When an electric arc is created, a pressure event occurs. There can be two aspects to this: the shock and sound waves propagated from the expanding arc channel, and the bulk pressurization of the enclosure, if arcing is taking place within a closed volume. The present paper is the first systematic review of the research on both these pressure pheno...
Article
Phosphorus is a highly reactive substance and numerous accidents have been reported due to phosphorus reactions with diverse chemicals. Yet, it has generally been considered that phosphorus does not explode when O2 (or air) is the only available reaction partner. A chemical explosion requires that a bulk volume of reactant be available to react abr...
Article
The concept of noncombustibility evolved in the early days of building codes, before quantitative methods of measuring and assessing components of fire hazard were available. ‘Noncombustible’ lacks a technical definition of general scope, but in the US codes, which are the primary focus of this study, it is defined as a material which meets the cri...
Article
Ammonium nitrate (AN) is a detonable substance which has led to numerous disasters throughout the 20th century and until the present day, with the latest disaster occurring on 17 April 2013. Needed safety lesson have not been learned, since typically each accident was viewed as a great surprise and investigations focused on finding some unique reas...
Article
The results of the UN test O.1 for oxidizing solids are shown to be incorrect when specimens contain certain inertant additives, illustrated for the case of oxidizers in the ammonium nitrate fertilizer family. Test results for three different AN-based products containing inertants show that two of the three (including calcium ammonium nitrate, CAN,...
Article
Full-text available
A history of ammonium nitrate explosions in storage or transport is briefly reviewed. The role of uncontrolled fires as the causative factor is demonstrated. The new NFPA 400-2016 Hazardous Materials Code is examined in the light of the recent (2013) ammonium nitrate explosion at West, Texas. The new edition of the Code is shown to be an improvemen...
Article
Full-text available
The use of organic, halogenated flame retardants in consumer products is examined from the point of view of fire safety and potential harm to health and the environment. It is shown that, in many applications the fire safety benefits have been questionable or non-existent, while health harm has been documented in a very large number of studies. It...
Chapter
Calculations of fire behavior in buildings are not possible unless the heat release rate of the fire is known. This chapter on heat release rates provides both theoretical and empirical information. The chapter is organized so that theory and basic effects are considered first, then a compendium of product data is provided, which is arranged in alp...
Chapter
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the fire community was pushing for reliable bench-scale tools to measure material flammability based on heat release rate. A measure of heat release rates was thought to be the most reliable and accurate measure of the flammability of a material. Unfortunately, only a few heat release measurement tools were availab...
Chapter
An electrical fire is generally understood to be a fire that is caused by the flow of an electric current or by a discharge of static electricity. It is not defined as a fire involving an electrical device or appliance. For example, a fire on an electric range that occurs due to overheating and ignition of the oilin a deep-fry pan is not classed as...
Book
This is a CD-ROM book comprising a compilation of conference papers pertinent to fire science issues in fire investigations. Available only from the publishers, Interscience Communications Ltd. (London).
Chapter
Historically, there have been three primary considerations in the use of flame retardant (FR) additives for polymers: (1) Will it improve the fire performance of the polymer? (2) Does the formulation with the FR additive included maintain acceptable mechanical properties and appearance? (3) Is the cost acceptable? In recent years, it has become cle...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
During the investigation of most fires, including fatal fires, the investigators focus almost all of their attention to the questions of cause and origin. This has been the traditional purpose of fire investigation. Because of this, the type of smoke alarm involved, i.e. ionization or photoelectric, is seldom a factor that is considered important....
Article
Full-text available
Fire safety engineering has developed remarkably well over the last 4 decades, yet there are certain areas that have been systematically neglected or overlooked. On the basis of his long career in the profession, the author offers a number of areas for consideration where improvements are still clearly needed. These include: (1) learning from fire...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Modern reference works dealing with electric arc formation invariably describe breakdown of air in terms of the Paschen curve which shows a minimum at around 340 V, occurring at about a 7 μm distance between the electrodes. For smaller gap spacings, the Paschen curve rises rapidly. The curve is based on Townsend’s avalanche theory which is presente...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Flame retardant chemicals have been found to migrate from consumer products to house dust to people, and have been associated with a range of health problems. In the United Kingdom (UK), a major driver for the incorporation of flame retardant (FR) chemicals in consumer products such as residential and juvenile furniture, mattresses, and pillows is...
Article
Full-text available
US building codes balance the consideration of hazards to public safety, health and general welfare. Current codes require foam plastic insulation materials to have both protection by a thermal barrier and compliance with Steiner Tunnel test requirements. The Steiner Tunnel test is met by adding flame-retardant chemicals to the foam. Studies demons...
Article
The science of understanding how fires burn and how heat smoke and gases are generated and affect people has progressed substantially in the last half century. The principles of facility design for life safety in fires have reached a degree of maturity. Standards and code provisions for fire detection, suppression and control have become the norm....
Article
Full-text available
The extensive use of chemical flame retardants to meet the California Furniture Flammability Standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) [1] provides an example of the need for consideration of environmental impacts of fire safety interventions before they are implemented. Flame retardants are currently being used in products with high levels of human...
Article
Full-text available
The conditions needed for excessive current to melt conductors often must be known for successful investigation of various types of electrical failures and electrical fires. The authors reexamine the problem of fusing of electrical wires from a modern heat transfer perspective. Expressions were derived for two types of questions: (1) will a wire fu...
Article
The Forum is intended to provide for dialogue and discussion among fire experts, scientists and consultants. Contributions to The Forum will not be refereed in the conventional sense, but will be subject to review by the Editor or a member of the Journal's Editorial Board relative to appropriateness, clarity, timeliness, and scope of interest. The...
Article
For the evaluation of occupant safety in the case of building fires, the Required Safe Egress Time/Available Safe Egress Time (RSET/ASET) concept has become widespread and is now commonly used in the fire safety engineering profession. It has also become commonly used by smoke detector (smoke alarm) manufacturers in assessing whether a particular d...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
When an electric arc is created, a pressure event occurs. There can be two aspects to this: the shock and sound waves propagated from the expanding arc channel, and the bulk pressurization of the enclosure, if arcing is taking place within a closed volume. The present paper is the first systematic review of the research on both these pressure pheno...
Article
Fire resistance tests for barriers, e.g., walls or floor/ceiling assemblies, utilize unexposed-face temperature criteria as one of the means of determining whether the specimen passes the test. The purpose of a temperature limit on the unexposed face is to prevent fire propagation which might occur by igniting adjacent combustibles in the space not...
Article
Full-text available
Electrical fires-fires directly caused by the flow of electric current or by static electricity-are one of the important types of structure fires. The subsequent development of an electrical fire is generally no different than that of any other type of structural fire. But the mechanisms leading to ignition of an electrical fire are, in many cases,...
Article
The concept of noncombustibility evolved in the early days of building codes, before quantitative methods of measuring and assessing components of fire hazard were available. The hazard variables underlying the noncombustibility concept are examined in this study. In view of today's state of the art, it is shown that use of noncombustibility requir...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Gases, vapors, liquid sprays, aerosols and other forms of ignitable liquids dispersed into the atmosphere, under certain circumstances, may encounter a hot surface. It is important for fire investigators to determine in such cases if the hot surface is a competent ignition source. The paper reviews the experimental data and findings on this topic a...
Article
Full-text available
Ignition has been systematically, scientifically studied for about a century now. But the development of knowledge in this area has been uneven, and while an advanced understanding has been reached in some areas, knowledge is scant in others. A review of the literature of the field indicates that the following are some of the notable areas where en...
Article
The conditions required to cause ignition of solid wood materials under short-term heating are examined, and it is found that the appropriate ignition temperature applicable under these conditions is 250°C. It is then shown that ignition requirements are different if long-term heating is involved and that ignition can occur at exposure temperatures...
Article
For most categories of consumer electrical appliances, UL and IEC standards are typically the only widely used safety standards. A number of these standards are examined to determine if they incorporate technical provisions so that complying products would thereby meet expected fire safety objectives. Specifically, the provisions are examined gover...
Article
Full-text available
Some basic mechanisms for electrical fires are reviewed in a tutorial presentation.
Article
PVC is the most common insulation material used for wiring in low-voltage (LV) service. ‘Low-voltage’, in the context of this paper, is taken to be 120–240 VAC. The electrotechnical products considered include insulated wires, cables and cords, and also appurtenant termination devices, e.g. male plugs or female taps. Well-known factors leading to t...
Article
Full-text available
The heat of combustion of burning trees is often used in forest-fire hazard modeling to relate mass-loss results to the heat produced; therefore reliable values are needed. Experimental results for the effective heat of combustion of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) trees are presented as a function of moisture content. It is also...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The state of the art of understanding the ignition of solids is reviewed. Despite a half-century of progress , it is shown that there are a number of areas where systematic, quantitative methods to characterize the ignition behavior are lacking. These include: radiant ignition of solids which have either a time-varying heat flux imposed on them, ar...
Article
Experimental studies on charring of wood are reviewed with the objective of providing guidance for interpretation of char patterns in fire investigations. It is shown that in room fires, the charring rate of wood members that do not have gaps or joints is similar in magnitude to values obtained from fire-resistance tests. But floors and other assem...
Article
Full-text available
PVC is the most common insulation material used for wiring in low-voltage (LV) service. "Low-voltage," in the context of this paper, is taken to be 120 - 240 VAC. "Wiring" is taken to include not only insulated wires, cables, or cords, but also the appurtenant termination devices, e.g., male plugs or female taps. Well-known factors leading to the i...
Technical Report
Full-text available
A review on the literature concerning the risk of ignition of forest fires prepared on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service, San Dimas T&D Center.
Article
Full-text available
Fires to due long-term, low-temperature heating of wood are described. It is shown that a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in this area has been deeply problematical, since the judges failed to understand not just the principles of ignition, but also the methods and procedures of science.
Article
Tests have determined that boots or shoes of individuals at a fire scene do not transport sufficient contaminants ("tracking") through the fire scene to produce a positive laboratory result for the presence of gasoline in a fire scene that was not present at the time of the fire. Questions about the validity of forensic laboratory results have been...
Article
Full-text available
A wide variety of physical or chemical testing methods have been proposed for differentiating between an electric arc bead that caused a fire, versus one that was caused by the fire itself. The methods all implicitly assume that there is some categorical difference between these two types of arc beads. A consideration of the room fire process leads...
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