Flame spread limits (LOC) of fire resistant fabrics

Maria Thomsen, Daniel C. Murphy, Carlos Fernandez-pello, David L. Urban, Gary A. Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Selecting fabrics based on their fire resistance is important for professions with substantial fire risk such as firefighters, race car drivers, and astronauts suits. Generally, fire resistant materials are tested under standard atmospheric conditions. However, their flammability properties can change when the ambient conditions deviate from standard atmospheric conditions. Particularly in high altitude locations, aircraft, and spacecraft, the pressure and oxygen concentrations are different than in a standard atmosphere. Also, the presence of external radiation (i.e. overheating component or nearby fire) can reduced the fire resistance of a material. In this work, an experimental study was conducted to analyze the influence of environmental variables such as oxygen concentration, ambient pressure, and external radiant heat flux on the flame spread limits of two different fire resistant fabrics: Nomex HT90-40 and a blend made of Cotton/Nylon/Nomex. Ambient pressure was varied between 40 and 100 kPa and ambient oxygen concentrations were decreased until the Limiting Oxygen Concentration (LOC), limiting conditions which would permit flame propagation, were found. Experiments were conducted using no external radiant flux or a radiant flux of 5 kW/m2 to examine the influence of the presence of a nearby heat source. Among the results, it was found that as ambient pressure is reduced the oxygen concentration required for the flame to propagate must be increased. The external radiant heat flux acts as an additional source of heat and allows propagation of the flame at lower oxygen concentrations. An analysis of the propagation limits in terms of the partial pressure of oxygen suggest that the LOC of a material is not only determined by heat transfer mechanisms but also by chemical kinetic mechanisms. The information provided in this work helps characterize increased flammability risk of materials when in environments different from the standard atmospheric conditions at which they are typically tested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-265
Number of pages7
JournalFire Safety Journal
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • Environmental conditions
  • Flame resistant
  • Flame spread
  • LOC


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