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Wildland-urban-interface fires account for billions in damage and loss of property and life. Structures in these fires are typically ignited by direct flame contact and/or embers being produced by already ignited vegetation and structures nearby. By preventing or delaying the ignition of these structures, we can provide time for evacuations or defensive measures to be put into place. This thesis aims to determine the ignition criteria and behavior for a novel wood-waste-derived material. The wood-composite material uses low-energy processing methods and is a recyclable material with the potential as a low-cost and sustainable housing component. A biodegradable and recyclable gelatin-based flame-retardant is also applied to the wood-composite material samples. The objectives are to determine the wood composite ignition behavior properties and compare its performance with pinewood. As well as determine any ignition behavior improvements the flame retardant may provide the wood-composite, thus representing a sustainable ignition-resistant construction material for structures in wildland-urban interface zones. An experimental procedure and configuration was developed that allowed us to measure the surface ignition temperature of the samples using k-type thermocouples and an infrared camera to compare with and measuring the time-to-ignition. The ignition criteria and the samples' respective temperature profiles were compared with one another and used to determine the improvements the composite and flame retardant provides. The wood composite was found to have increased its time-to-ignition by ~270% compared to pine. The surface ignition temperatures were decreased by flame-retardants charring and water content, which also slowed the heating of the material.
Joseph Avalos is a M.S. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He joined Prof. Jeanette Cobian-Iñiguez’s Fire Lab in 2021 and has since been working under her supervision to study material flammability and ignition behavior. He has been analyzing ignition behavior criteria and using CFD simulation software to determine and verify the ignition behavior from a novel wood-composite, and a gelatin-based flame retardant. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Merced.
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