The awards, which are worth £2,000 each, are given in recognition of projects which involve innovative scientific development, and enable recipients to become Society of Instrument Maker (SIM) Scholars.
Fire performance testing
Many materials either expand or contract when exposed to fire. For example, wood forms a char and the surface recedes away from the fire, while intumescent fire protection coatings, which are routinely used to protect steel and other materials from fire, expand to form a thick protective layer. This expansion means that the surface of the coating has in effect moved closer to the source of the fire.
This differing behaviour of materials exposed to fire in the real world has important implications for the accuracy of fire performance testing under lab conditions.
During testing, the distance between the material sample and the fire itself determines the intensity of the fire acting on the sample: a key variable which should remain controlled for an accurate understanding of fire performance.
The method developed by Nikolai allows for the surface of any sample to be monitored continuously during a test, and the distance between the sample and the fire source to be adjusted in real time to the desired value.
This has created the twin benefits of allowing more accurate control of the experimental conditions and enabling researchers to record a new variable – the size of the sample – continuously during the test.
The development equips our researchers with an even greater understanding of the performance of materials when exposed to a fire, and has been of great interest to industrial partners of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering.