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Laboratory Studies of Smoke Properties at NIST Past, Present, and Future



George W. Mulholland, Nelson P. Bryner


Burn facilities have been developed at NIST to measure the yield and optical properties of smoke at two fire scales. The small scale apparatus is used for burning samples about 10 cm in diameter (soup bowl size) and an intermediate scale apparatus is used for objects up to about 70 cm in diameter (bird bath size). Each of these facilities monitor the mass loss rate of the fuel with a concentration of smoke particulate with a filter, laser transmittance through the smoke, and the concentration of the major combustion gases. For the small scale apparatus, the radiant flux to the sample can be increased with a conical radiant heater and the composition of the air can be varied to study vitiated burning. Illustrative results for a variety of materials at the two scales are presented. Planned experiments involving vitiated burning and field scale measurements will be described. Coupled with the intermediate scale facility is a specially designed aging and dilution chamber, which allows simulation of the smoke aging that occurrs as a smoke plume rises in the atmosphere. Results on the effect of aging on the agglomerate size and optical properties are presented and compared with theory. A transmission cell--reciprocal nephelometer has been developed to study the light scattering and absorption of smoke agglomerates. On-going efforts to quantify the instrument performance are discussed and recent results on the effect of cloud-processing on optical properties of smoke are presented.
Proceedings Title
Smoke/Obscurants Symposium 14
Conference Dates
April 1, 1990
Conference Location
Laurel, MD


smoke, research facilities, burning rate, liquid fuels, solid fuels, fire research


Mulholland, G. and Bryner, N. (1990), Laboratory Studies of Smoke Properties at NIST Past, Present, and Future, Smoke/Obscurants Symposium 14, Laurel, MD, [online], (Accessed April 18, 2024)
Created November 1, 1990, Updated February 19, 2017