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Sensitivity Analysis of a Thermo-Structural Model for Materials in Fire

Summers P., Lattimer, B., Case S. and Feih S., 2011. Sensitivity Analysis of a Thermo-Structural Model for Materials in Fire. Fire Safety Science 10: 1165-1178. 10.3801/IAFSS.FSS.10-1165


A new thermo-structural model was developed and validated to predict the failure of compressively loaded fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) laminates during one-sided heating from a fire. The model consists of the best thermal and structural models in the literature integrated into a single predictive model. This includes a one-dimensional pyrolysis model to predict the thermal response of a decomposing material. Using the thermal response to calculate the mechanical properties, an integral structural model was developed considering thermally induced bending caused by one-sided heating. The thermo-structural model predicts out-of-plane deflections and compressive failure of laminates in fire conditions. This paper also provides an improved failure model for FRP laminates exposed to fire, a first validation study on the modeling approach using intermediate-scale compression load failure tests with a one-side heat flux exposure, and a first sensitivity study of the input parameter effects on the structural response of FRP laminates. Through the sensitivity study, the out-of-plane deflection predictions exhibited little sensitivity to the thermal inputs. However, the time-to-failure predictions were significantly affected by the virgin conductivity and specific heat capacity. The structural inputs exhibited a significant impact on the out-of-plane deflection predictions. The in-plane thermal expansion, residual elastic modulus above the glass transition temperature, and vertical temperature profile significantly affected the magnitude of the out-of-plane deflection; however, only the in-plane thermal expansion and residual elastic modulus affected the failure direction. The time-to-failure prediction was only significantly affected by the residual elastic modulus. A better agreement between the predicted and observed times-to-failure was achieved by reducing the residual elastic modulus.

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