Experimental and modeling study of thermal exposure of a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)

An experimental apparatus designed to study firefighter safety equipment exposed to a thermal environment was developed. The apparatus consisted of an elevated temperature flow loop with the ability to heat the air stream up to 200°C. The thermal and flow conditions at the test section were characterized using thermocouples and bi-directional probes. The safety equipment examined in this study was a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), including a facepiece and an air cylinder. The SCBA facepiece was placed on a mannequin headform and coupled to a breathing simulator that was programmed with a prescribed breathing pattern. The entire SCBA assembly was placed in the test section of the flow loop for these thermal exposure experiments. Three air stream temperatures, 100°C, 150°C, and 200°C, were used with the average air speed at the test section set at 1.4m/s and thermal exposure durations up to 1200s. Measurements were made using type-K bare-bead thermocouples located in the mannequin's mouth and on the outer surface of the SCBA cylinder. The experimental results indicated that increasing the thermal exposure severity and duration increased the breathing air temperatures supplied by the SCBA. Temperatures of breathing air from the SCBA cylinder in excess of 60°C were observed over the course of the thermal exposure conditions used in most of the experiments. A mathematical model for transient heat transfer was developed to complement the thermal exposure experimental study. The model took into consideration forced convective heat transfer, quasi-steady heat conduction through the composite layers of the SCBA cylinder wall, the breathing pattern and action of the breathing simulator, and predicted air temperatures from the thermally exposed SCBA cylinder and temperatures at the outer surface of the SCBA cylinder. Model predictions agreed reasonably well with the experimental measurements.

Source: Donnelly MK, Yang JC. Burns, 2015.

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