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Investigation of Surrogate Smoldering Ignition Sources for Testing Soft Furnishings



Richard G. Gann, Morgan Bruns, Amanda Robbins, Edward J. Hnetkovsky, Michael Ladas


The introduction of cigarette ignition propensity standards has led to a reduction in the availability of high ignition propensity commercial cigarettes. Since high ignition propensity cigarettes are needed for soft furnishing flammability tests, a standard reference cigarette, SRM 1196, was developed. The current supply of SRM 1196 cigarettes is limited, and so the feasibility of a surrogate ignition source was examined. The surrogate ignition source should be repeatable, sustainable, relatively inexpensive, and should have a similar ignition propensity to the SRM 1196 cigarette on a broad range of substrates. A literature review identified several potential surrogate ignition sources including cartridge heaters, hot slugs, and materials that can smolder, such as charcoal, cotton plugs, and cotton rope. Experiments quantified the heat transfer characteristics and ignition propensity of the SRM 1196 cigarette as a baseline for evaluating candidate ignition sources. In particular, thermocouples were used to measure the temperatures at the interface of the cigarette and the substrate for both reactive and inert substrates. Screening experiments were performed to estimate the ignition propensities of the candidate surrogate sources. Analysis of and experiments with these sources found that cartridge heaters are impractical for routine testing and that commercial versions of the combustible materials do not show appropriate or repeatable values of ignition propensity. The use of hot slugs would require additional testing in which the materials, dimensions, shape, and mass were all systematically varied. Extensive testing to identify fabrics which, when supported on a foam slab, would lead to some, but not 100 % ignitions did not find enough fabrics to demonstrate equivalence to the SRM 1196 cigarette. Because of the unlikelihood of success, it is recommended that these tests not be performed and that NIST order another supply of SRM 1196 cigarettes.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1872
Report Number


cigarette, cigarette ignition propensity, fire, fire safety, fire tests, mattresses, smoldering


Gann, R. , Bruns, M. , Robbins, A. , Hnetkovsky, E. and Ladas, M. (2015), Investigation of Surrogate Smoldering Ignition Sources for Testing Soft Furnishings, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed July 17, 2024)


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Created March 1, 2015, Updated November 10, 2018