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2002 Howard W. Emmons Invited Plenary Lecture - Thermal Glass Breakage

Pagni, P., 2003. 2002 Howard W. Emmons Invited Plenary Lecture - Thermal Glass Breakage. Fire Safety Science 7: 3-22. doi:10.3801/IAFSS.FSS.7-3


The problem considered here is “When does a window exposed to fire become a vent?” Both compartment fires and urban/wildland interface fires provide applications for this work, which was chosen for the 2002 Howard W. Emmons Lecture because he introduced that topic to fire research. Glass breaks when exposed to fire because the temperature difference between the exposed pane and its shaded perimeter produces a strain at the edge due to the excess thermal expansion of the central heated pane. When the stress induced by that strain exceeds the glass breaking stress, a brittle fracture crack is initiated at the edge which travels, usually on multiple paths, through the pane at ~ 1.5 km/s. Practical examples of real fires where glass breaking played a critical role are cited. The literature is reviewed. Multipane windows are discussed. Techniques are presented for calculating the glass breaking time as a boundary condition in field and zone models for fire safe designs. The primary difficulties in application are identifying the pane’s proper glass properties and the fire’s radiative and convective heating coefficients. Suggested properties at 50°C for the soda lime float glass common in windows include: density ? = 2500 kg/m3, specific heat capacity cp = 820 J/kgK, thermal conductivity k = 0.95 W/mK, Young’s Modulus E = 72 GPa, thermal coefficient of linear expansion ? = 9x10–6 K-1 and breaking stress ?b = 10 to 50 MPa. The breaking stress has a wide range because it is a function of the glass edge condition and history. Comparisons are made with experimental results from the Building Research Institute in Japan, the University of Maryland in the USA and the University of Ulster’s FireSERT Centre in the UK. The glass fall-out problem is formulated.


glass breaking, thermal stresses in glass, compartment fire venting, glass fall-out, boundary conditions, radiation

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