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Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally

Heated Electrical Wire


Xinyan Huang and Forman A. Williams
University of California, San Diego

Yuji Nakamura
Hokkaido University, Japan

August 21, 2014

August 3, 2012 34th international symposium on Combustion, Warsaw, Poland

Outline
Motivation
Simplified Ignition-to-Spread Model
Experimental Setup
Experimental Results and Discussion
Conclusions and Future Work

August 21, 2014

August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

Motivation
In 2010, electrical fires accounted for 28,600 incidents and $ 1.1 billion in
property losses, 53% of which involved electrical wiring.
Electrical wire fires account for 42% of total fire cases in Nuclear Power
Plants. Also, fire scenarios for wire fires in sub-atmospheric pressure and
oxygen-enriched (space) applications should be determined.
Previous study showed flames spread faster in a higher-conductivity wire
and the spread rate increases as pressure decreases [1]. But no systematic
experimental study or theory for wire ignition by externally heating exists.
How do the thermal conductivity, dimension of wire and atmospheric
conditions (pressure and oxygen concentration) affect ignition and the
consequent transition to spread?

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[1] Y. Nakamura et al., Proc. Combust. Inst., 32 (2009), pp. 25592566

August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

Outline
Motivation
Simplified Ignition-to-Spread Model
Experimental Setup
Experimental Results and Discussion
Conclusions and Future Work

August 21, 2014

August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

Ignition Model at Flashpoint


Assumptions:

Uniform heat flux within


Thermally thin: ~ 0.2 mm
Uniform cross-sectional temperature:
< 0.3

and

Governing Equations

= 2 +

= 2

where /2 = /2+ ,

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>
2

0<<

=
/2

,
/2+

= 0, d = , aafor > 0.
0

Flashpoint: pyrolysis vapors achieve a


fuels lower flammability limit, defined
by a critical mass flux or temperature
(at = 5 ).

August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

Ignition Model at Flashpoint


Governing Equations

= 2 +

= 2

/2 = /2+ ,
T/x

T/x

/2

Ignition time
, , ,

0<<
2

>
2

= T/x

= 0, d = , aafor > 0.

/2+

where denotes ignition properties.

1 (thermally thin)
2 (thermally thick)
Critical/minimum ignition heat flux:
= 0, 0~/2 =

=
+


Increase with the conductance

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6 core diameter)
(conductivity and

Decrease with heating length ()


August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

Spread Point
To calculate the temperature profile, the
heat-transfer equation during spread is
2

2 +
=

: heat transfer in radial direction

Four Regions:

I. Unburned wire, ,1
= 1

II. Boiling polymer within the flame


Flame spread rate ( ) and flame width
( ) are the eigenvalue of the system,
which quantify the wire conductance.

To sustain
the21,
flame
spread, the wire
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2014

temperature profile should be higher


than that at steady-state flame-spread .

,2
= =

III. The wire core exposed to the flame

,3
= 4 4

IV. The wire core exposed


to atmosphere
7

,4
= 4

August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

Spread Point
? temperature profile

Burning rate [2]


=



ln 1 + ,

where =

2 , / +
/

= 4~5
Additional heating source from wire core

* Alternatively, the temperature profile can be


measured by a fixed thermocouple [3], and the result
agrees with the current semi-analytical estimation.

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= 2 ,

2 = + /2,

(linear)

Measuring , & ,

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[2] J.L. Torero et al., Combust. Sci. Tech., 174 (2002), pp. 187203
[3] Y. Nakamura et al., J. Therm. Sci. Tech., 3 (2008), pp. 430441

August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

Ignition-to-Spread Transition
Transition from flashpoint to spread point

Flame is weak during the transition


Large conductive heat losses along the
metal core may quench the flame

Additional heating may be required

Additional heat & heating duration

= ;

/2

Enthalpy at spread point: = 0 (blue line)


Enthalpy at flashpoint: = 0 (red line)
Heat from flame:
o ForAugust
high-conductivity wire or short heating length, is large and a
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long additional heating time is expected;

o Thick coating may produce more flame heating and reduce the additional heat.
August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

Outline
Motivation
Simplified Ignition-to-Spread Model
Experimental Setup
Experimental Results and Discussion
Conclusions and Future Work

August 21, 2014

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August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

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Ignition Experiment

Chamber size: 365 mm (L) 260 mm (W) 180 mm (H);


Coil heater: d = 5 mm, L = 1.2 cm, 2.0 cm (wound 10 times), and 3.0 cm;
Change the coil heater power to provide different external heat flux and heating time
by regulated DC power (accurate to 0.01 A) and compact PLC (accurate to 0.1 s);
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Sony HDR-XR 500V video camera (30 fps);
Two pipe line: (1) from air/oxygen tank; (2) to vacuum pump.
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Sample Wires & Test Conditions


Configurations of thin wires used in this study

Wire core: nichrome (NiCr) and copper (Cu) wires


() () () , but 1 25
Polyethylene coating: 0.3 mm (thermally thin),
At least 5 repeated tests at each case

Ignition curves are plotted along the 50% chance condition


(e.g. 3 times flash/spread and 3 time not flash/spread).

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* 0.2 /,

16 /,

400 /

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* >3500 runs in this study


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Outline
Motivation
Simplified Ignition-to-Spread Model
Experimental Setup
Experimental Results and Discussion
Conclusions and Future Work

August 21, 2014

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August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

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Typical Ignition Process at Normal Atmosphere


NiCr-A wire: do = 1.0 mm, dc = 0.7 mm, = 0.15 mm,
= 10 , coil heater (2 cm), = 1 atm

Flashpoint
heating time = 6.9 sec

Transition (no-spread)
heating time = 7.4 sec

Spread point
heating time = 7.5 sec

As heating duration increases:


Blue premix flame (flashpoint) yellow diffusion flame (fire point)
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flame
separate and spread to the edge of coil heater 14
spread out (spread point)
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Comparison at Flashpoint
Conductance

Ignition time by fitting modeling results


, , ,

I. At flashpoint, experimental results qualitatively


agree with modeling results.

II. Index increases with increasing wire conductance,


and therefore does not confirm ideality.

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III. a wire with a larger conductivity and a larger core


diameter, a longer heating duration is required, and
critical heat flux or electrical current is larger.

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* Note that it is impossible to calculate the exact


heat flux from the coil heater.
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Transition and Spread point


Conductance

Experimental observation:

I.

For large-conductance wires, additional heating


duration is required in experiments.

II. For low-conductance wires, once flash, flame can


spread out.

Estimating the experimental heat flux from previous


comparison by connecting , to , .

Assuming heating efficiency from the flame: = 5%,


and calculate the required heating duration.

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I.

Model qualitatively predicts the experimental trend,


increases with increasing thermal conductance
(Cu-A>Cu-B>NiCr-A>NiCr-B).

II.

t decreases as heat flux decrease because a


longer heating duration increases

III. In high-heat-flux experiment, the required heating

16because the highduration is underestimated


temperature coil continues to heat after power off.

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Heating-Length Effect
Heating length

= ;
=

/2

(Additional heat time)

I. Increasing the heating length increases


the and , which may
converge the spread point to the
flashpoint.

II. A shorter heating zone requires more


heating duration to ensure spread.

III. Critical heat flux decreases with


increasing heating length.
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,
=
+



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Ignition and Spread at Reduced Pressures

= kPa
Cu-B wire: = 11 , heating time = 9.0 sec,
coil heater (2 cm)

= kPa
Cu-B wire: = 11 , heating time = 10.0 sec,
coil heater (2 cm), no steady-state spread

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Blue, weak, and spherical flame during ignition
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Flame spread faster as pressure decreases
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Pressure Effect
Modeling results at flashpiont
Simulation results show that reducing the
ambient pressure reduces the convective
cooling ( ), resulting in a short heating
time at flashpoint.

Dash line indicates the limiting condition of


no gravity.

In general, pressure effect should be small.

In low-pressure experiments, the heating time


at flashpoint increases with decreasing
pressure because the convective heating (from
both coil and flame) decreases remarkably.

The same reason for a longer the heating time


at spread point.

Thus, when consider the ignition difficulty in


low pressures, how the
19 pressure affects the
heating source should not be neglected.

Experimental results

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Oxygen-Concentration Effect
Ignition model works

Ignition model fails

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Heating time decreases as oxygen


concentration increases (2 < 40%),
even under the low pressure
environment, because a higher flaming
temperature increases the heating
efficiency ().

2 > 40%, spread point always


converges to the flashpoint, indicating
a different mechanism to control the
spread point.

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Ignition Delay at High Oxygen Concentrations

Ignition delay is observed that ignition


occurs several seconds after the end of
heating, which is also observed in the
overloading ignition (microgravity)
experiments [4].

Cu-B wire
o do = 0.8 mm, dc = 0.5 mm, = 0.15 mm,
o = %, 1 atm

o coil heater (2 cm), = 11


Heating time = 4.1 sec
FlashpointAugust
= 10.4 sec
6 sec delay)
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2014

In high oxygen concentrations, this


heat-transfer based ignition model is
no longer appropriate.

Both mixing and chemical kinetics in


gas phase should be considered.
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[4] O. Fujita et al., Proc. Combust. Inst., 33 (2011),
pp. 26172623

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Outline
Motivation
Simplified Ignition-to-Spread Model
Experimental Setup
Experimental Results and Discussion
Conclusions and Future Work

August 21, 2014

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August 3, 2012 Ignition-to-Spread Transition of Externally Heated Electrical Wire

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Conclusions
A simplified ignition-to-spread model for thin electrical wires is
developed, which qualitatively agrees with experimental results.

For a higher-conductance wire, a longer heating duration is


required to achieve both flashpoint and spread point, and the
weak flame is easier to be quenched during the transition.

Ignition becomes difficult in reduced pressures because the


heating source becomes weak.

In high oxygen concentration, flashpoint converges to the


spread point and ignition delay occurs, which cannot be
included in this heat-transfer based ignition model.
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Future Work
Future work can be focused on
1) looking for the critical/minimum coating thickness for
ignition/flame-spread;
2) Quantify the effective conductivity ( ) of wire by
including the conductance of wire core to calculate
both ignition time and spread-rate by classical
theories;
3) For some coating materials, a different transition to
smoldering ignition;

4) evaluating the applicability of the theory to other more


widely used wires.
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Acknowledgements
Hokkaido University for offering this internship opportunity

Gao Jian, Junya Iwakami and Yangkyun Kim (Hokkaido Univ.)


for their help to my experiments

Prof. Michael Gollner (Maryland), Prof. Kal Seshadri, and


Ulrich Nieman (UCSD) for valuable discussions

Financial support for this research provided by JSPS (Grantsin-aid for Young Scientists: #21681022) and the Japan
Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES).

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QUESTIONS?

Thanks for your attention!


Presented by Xinyan Huang
University of California, San Diego

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