college of engineering concrete + fire overview

The fire engineering discipline is moving towards performance based design where the engineer can quantify the behavior of a structural system exposed to the entire fire and not only at the point of failure in a standard fire. The principles of fire science, heat transfer analysis, and structural analysis are the corner stones in this design method. While performance based design, with the application of numerical tools, can predict in great detail the structural performance during the fire, the accuracy of the predictions is dictated by the level of information available such as size and duration of the fire, structural system, and the material characteristics needed in thermo-mechanical material models. Extensive knowledge is available on the temperature profile, effect of material constituents, and structural geometry for normal strength concrete subjected to standard fire, however, there are major gaps in the knowledge as it relates to:

1) the behavior of normal as well as high performance concrete subjected to real fires, and
2) the behavior of concrete exposed to fires and subjected to multi-axial stress states.

Currently, lack of experimental evidence complicates design of concrete structures for the fire that is most likely to occur. The main objectives are to

1) determine the thermal profiles in concrete members subjected to natural fires,
2) determine the deformation and damage in concrete subjected to high temperature and multi-axial loading, and
3) evaluate the accuracy of existing materials models in multi-axial stress states.

The outcome of the first objective allows design engineer to determine the structural fire protection for non standard (natural) fires and it allows research engineers to evaluate the temperature profiles from heat and mass transfer analysis. The outcome of the second and third objective provides new essential information on the mechanisms of damage. This will allow researchers to advance the 3D constitutive modeling of concrete subjected to fire.  Innovative testing procedures will be applied to develop multi-axial stresses during testing. A state-of-the art fire furnace facility at Lawrence Tech will be utilized. Concrete specimens will be exposed to short duration high intensity, progressive burning, and standard fires.

This research project also includes a comprehensive educational component. The integration of research and education will benefit Lawrence Tech's academic and outreach programs. The activities will strengthen Lawrence Tech's commitment to excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, Detroit area K12 programs, educational use of research facilities, and efforts of attracting minority and female students to engineering. The integration of research and education promotes a number of student benefits such as:

1) an opportunity to become advanced and confident learners,
2) enhancement of technical and non-technical skills that will prepare them for graduate school and life long learning,
3) non traditional learning experiences, and
4) recognition for the global and societal impact of engineering solutions. 

Furthermore, undergraduate and graduate students participate and collaborate in several aspects of the research. Development of curricula as well as educational tools directly affects students in civil engineering but also students in interdisciplinary programs between the departments of Architecture and Design and Civil Engineering.