Electrical Fires and Explosions

Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas, Fire Science and Technology Inc.
November 9, 2016, 11:00am - 12:00pm, EBU-II 479



In this seminar, Dr. Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas will speak about research towards understanding electrical fires and explosions. During the preparation of his book Ignition Handbook, Vyto needed to cover all aspects of the ignition of fires and initiation of accidental explosions. In the course of this, he discovered that research on electrical fires was very scant, especially in the English language, although a substantial body of work existed in Japanese. Consequently, his Ignition Handbook served as the first English publication which endeavored to survey the research bases for understanding these fires. The problems in this area proved to be worthy of their own treatise, so for the last several years he has been preparing a new book, Electrical Fires and Explosions. In the seminar, he will outline some basic features of electrical fires, illustrate mechanisms involved, and point out areas where research is especially wanting. Electrical arc explosions will also be discussed.



Vyto has bachelor’s degree in Physics from Swarthmore College, along with a master’s degree in Structural Engineering from UC Berkeley, as well as a Ph.D. from UCB in Fire Protection Engineering. But he works in a field which is nowadays generally called Fire Safety Science, as distinguished from Fire Protection Engineering, which is usually viewed as a design-oriented profession. While still at UCB, he became the first US scientist to develop and release a computer program for modeling room fires. During 1977-1993, he was a researcher in the Center for Fire Research at NIST, where he invented the Cone Calorimeter and the large-scale and the open heat release rate calorimeter based on oxygen consumption. These have become standard laboratory equipment worldwide. In addition to heat release rate research, he studied combustion toxicology, flame spread and smoke production from polymers, fire resistance, pool fires, and fire safety aspects of building codes. In 1993 he started his own firm, Fire Science and Technology Inc., where he specializes primarily in providing fire science support to fire investigations and litigations. He serves on the committee that develops NFPA 921, the Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, and regularly teaches fire investigators and forensic scientists on fire and explosion investigation topics. Since April 2016, Vyto has held an appointment as a Visiting Scholar at UCSD.

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