International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Mathematical model and sensor development for measuring energy transfer from wildland fires

Erik A. Sullivan A and André G. McDonald A B

A Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, 4-9 Mechanical Engineering Building, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2G8, Canada. Email: erik@ualberta.ca

B Corresponding author. Email: andre.mcdonald@ualberta.ca

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(7) 995-1004 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF14016
Submitted: 26 September 2013  Accepted: 27 April 2014   Published: 1 September 2014

Abstract

Current practices for measuring high heat flux in scenarios such as wildland forest fires use expensive, thermopile-based sensors, coupled with mathematical models based on a semi-infinite-length scale. Although these sensors are acceptable for experimental testing in laboratories, high error rates or the need for water cooling limits their applications in field experiments. Therefore, a one-dimensional, finite-length scale, transient-heat conduction model was developed and combined with an inexpensive, thermocouple-based rectangular sensor, to create a rapidly deployable, non-cooled sensor for testing in field environments. The proposed model was developed using concepts from heat conduction and with transient temperature boundary conditions, to avoid complicated radiation and convection conditions. Constant heat flux and tree-burning tests were respectively conducted using a mass loss cone calorimeter and a propane-fired radiant panel to validate the proposed analytical model and sensor as well as test the sensor in a simulated forest fire setting. The sensor was mounted directly beside a commercial Schmidt–Boelter gauge to provide data for comparison. The proposed heat flux measurement method provided results similar to those obtained from the commercial heat flux gauge to within one standard deviation. This suggests that the use of a finite-length scale model, coupled with an inexpensive thermocouple-based sensor, is effective in estimating the intense heat loads from wildland fires.

Additional keywords: fire energy, heat flux measurement, heat transfer, wildland forest fires.


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