Development of a numerical and experimental framework to understand and predict the burning dynamics of porous fuel beds
El Houssami, Mohamad
Understanding the burning behaviour of litter fuels is essential before developing a complete understanding of wildfire spread. The challenge of predicting the fire behaviour of such fuels arises from their porous nature and from the strong coupling of the physico-chemical complexities of the fuel with the surrounding environment, which controls the burning dynamics. In this work, a method is presented to accurately understand the processes which control the burning behaviour of a wildland fuel layer using numerical simulations coupled with laboratory experiments. Simulations are undertaken with ForestFireFOAM, a modification of FireFOAM that uses a Large Eddy Simulation solver to represent porous fuel by implementing a multiphase formulation to conservation equations (mass, momentum, and energy). This approach allows the fire-induced behaviour of a porous, reactive and radiative medium to be simulated. Conservation equations are solved in an averaged control volume at a scale sufficient to contain both coexisting gas and solid phases, considering strong coupling between the phases. Processes such as drying, pyrolysis, and char combustion are described through temperature-dependent interaction between the solid and gas phases. Di↵erent sub-models for heat transfer, pyrolysis, gas combustion, and smouldering have been implemented and tested to allow better representation of these combustion processes. Numerical simulations are compared with experiments undertaken in a controlled environment using the FM Global Fire Propagation Apparatus. Pine needle beds of varying densities and surface to volume ratios were subject to radiative heat fluxes and flows to interrogate the ignition and combustion behaviour. After including modified descriptions of the heat transfer, degradation, and combustion models, it is shown that key flammability parameters of mass loss rates, heat release rates, gas emissions and temperature fields agree well with experimental observations. Using this approach, we are able to provide the appropriate modifications to represent the burning behaviour of complex wildland fuels in a range of conditions representative of real fires. It is anticipated that this framework will support larger-scale model development and optimisation of fire simulations of wildland fuels.
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