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PhD Opportunities within FireSERT

Below is a list of links for PhD opportunities available for the Fire Safety Engineering Research & Technology Centre (FireSERT).

Other PhD opportunities outside of the main competition are advertised on the University’s website here.

  1. Experimental and Modelling of Sprinkler System Interaction with Flame and Smoke in Commercial Buildings
  2. Experimental and Numerical Study on Fire Performance of Steel Joints during Fire
  3. Computer Modelling of Fire Dynamics and Structure Behaviour in Fires
  4. Material Flammability & Fire Dynamics
  5. Human Behaviour in Fire and Emergencies
  6. Structures and Materials Behaviour in Fires

Theme One

Theme Title

Experimental and Modelling of Sprinkler System Interaction with Flame and Smoke in Commercial Buildings

Named Supervisors

Prof Ali Nadjai, ProfFaris Ali

Theme Description

Protecting the occupants of a building from the adverse effects of smoke in the event of a fire is one of the primary objectives of any fire protection system design. Achieving this objective becomes more difficult when dealing with very large spaces, such as an atrium or a mall, where a large number of occupants may be present and the compartment geometries may be complex. Because of these difficulties, model building codes place restrictions on the use of such spaces in buildings. Some of the requirements that are commonly applied in codes include:

  • The installation of automatic sprinklers throughout the building
  • Limitations on the amount of combustible materials either used in the construction of the building or located on the floor of the atrium, and
  • The provision of smoke management systems to maintain tenable conditions in egress routes.

The requirements for automatic fire suppression and controlling the fuel provide methods to limit the fire size and thus reduce smoke production.

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

Preliminary tests were conducted at FireSERT in M&S project conducted by Prof Nadjai investigating heat interaction with sprinkler. The instrumentation bought in M&S project will be used in this project.

FireSERT has state of the art research facilities, which are virtually unique within a university setting. These include a 600m2 burn hall, which houses a range of calorimeters including a ten-megawatt facility for full-scale research. Equipment to be used in this project is listed as: data logging systems, thermocouples, LVDTS, Smoke measurement (recently bought in the M&S project), Gordon gauges, sprinklers.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

The research in the sprinkler system protection in Fires involves a wide range of disciplines such as engineering, materials, Chemistry, mathematics and computer advanced software.  The diversity of this research theme means that the student will potentially cross these disciplines. Depending on the specific project, the student will learn experimental fire modelling, material behaviours in fire, BS & Euro code design development, Fluid Dynamic Simulation (FDS), Finite element modelling using sophisticated software. Extended the existing BS & Euro code design method, produce quality journal papers and key conference presentation.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

The research outcome will provide better approach design sprinkler systems code and expand the protection and safety of the occupancy, fire brigades, buildings and the environment.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

FireSERT has collaborated with a number of national and international organisations and is currently involved in deferent projects linked with European, industrial and building control partners in the sustainability and resilient buildings.  FireSERT's unique data was used by British Steel to press the UK case regarding the plate thermometer in European harmonisation debates. The research student will have opportunities to attend meet with experts in his research area and also to collaborate with other leading groups in the School Built Environment.


Theme Two

Theme Title

Experimental and Numerical Study on Fire Performance of Steel Joints during Fire

Named Supervisors

Prof Faris Ali, Prof Ali Nadjai

Theme Description

Real fire tests have shown that failure of structural elements may happen during the inevitable cooling phase of a fire. This will jeopardise the safety of people and fire fighters and may inflict risks to other buildings in the area of the fire. Research showed that connections in steel joints are the most critical parts for to such failures. The project will also involve beam-to-beam connection tests under fire. The extensive experimental work will be supported by a numerical study which will be validated using the obtained test results. The validated model will be used to conduct an intensive parametric analysis enabling to extend the range of parameters' combinations to provide better understanding of steel structures behaviour during fire. The integrated experimental and numerical parts of the project will assist to propose simple design rules to reduce casualties during fire and to improve the fire safety standards in buildings.

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

FireSERT

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

Skills in designing steel structures design, technical skills to design and execute fire tests, technical skills to design and execute flexure and mechanical properties tests, skills to write reports and research papers, learning methods of research and statistics assessment. Acquiring computer modelling skills using the Finite Element Method.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

The research outcome will expand the industrial use of steel by providing better guidelines to improve fire resistant of steel buildings.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

Participation in international conferences and workshops will strengthen networking and links. Introduce future connections and contacts with overseas students.


Theme Three

Theme Title

Computer Modelling of Fire Dynamics and Structure Behaviour in Fires

Named Supervisors

Dr Jianping Zhang, Dr Seng-kwan Choi

Theme Description

Over the last decades, computer modelling has gained considerable popularity in fire safety design both in research and industry. Advanced computer modelling allowing prediction of smoke movement and fire spread in complex buildings, behaviours of structural elements in fire and evacuation of people in fire.

The aim of this research is to improve fire safety by making computer modelling (computational fluid dynamics, CFD, and finite element analysis, FEA) credible to be able to predict the fire sizes and hazards for people and infrastructure in real fire situations so that costly  large scale testing becomes not necessary. Particular attention will be paid to the interaction between CFD with FEA models and that between CFD with evacuation models.

The successful candidate will develop advanced sub-models to address the different important phenomena in fire such as combustion, radiation, production of smoke and carbon monoxide and structural behaviours. These models will be validated against literature data and/or available experimental data at FireSERT from previous or current research. Some areas of concentration addressing these objectives are:

  • burning behaviours of liquid pool fires,
  • fire dynamics of façade fires,
  • glazing in fire,
  • ventilation in atria, and
  • human behaviour and evacuation in fire

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

The Fire Dynamics and Material Lab (FML) at FireSERT is equipped with advanced experimental apparatus capable of detailed measurements of both thermal degradation of milligram samples and burning of complex materials in large-scale tests. For numerical simulation, the group has access to the most widely used computer software packages for fire simulations, such as Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS), OpenFOAM, and Abaqus. Not only are there dedicated workstations we also have access to UK national high performance computing facility.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

The research in fire modelling involves a wide range of disciplines such as engineering, mathematics and computer engineering.  The diversity of this research theme means that the student will potentially cross these disciplines. The student will learn advanced numerical modelling (CFD, FEA, and evacuation modelling) or a combination of them. These techniques have been widely used far beyond the fire application so the student will be able to apply the knowledge and skills learn from his study in any other relevant areas.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

FireSERT has collaborated with a number of national and international organisations and is currently having joint EU and National projects in the field of fire dynamics and material flammability. FireSERT is a partner in the UKCTRF consortium (UK Consortium on Turbulent Reacting Flows).  The student will have opportunities to meet with experts in his research area and also to collaborate with other leading groups in fire and structure modelling.


Theme Four

Theme Title

Material Flammability & Fire Dynamics

Named Supervisors

Dr Jianping Zhang, Prof Ali Nadjai

Theme Description

Experimental testing of material flammability and fire dynamics is of fundamental importance in studying the fire properties of materials and in understanding how they burn in real fire situations.

Micro-scale tests using milligram samples in a well-controlled environment allows the determination of the degradation mechanisms and quantification of the pyrolysis gases, which are important in understanding the initiation and development of a fire when such a material is burns in real fire situations. Meso-scale tests using the cone calorimeter allows the determination of the intrinsic flammability properties which are essential inputs in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling. Finally, large scale tests such as single burning item (SBI) and ISO corner test can be used to study the burning behaviours of a material in real scale and these tests also provide data for validation or verification of CFD models.

The candidate will be able to use any or a combination of these facilities to study the flammability of various materials of interest, such as wood, polymer or liquid pool fires, or smoke development and  fire dynamics in compartment fires. For material flammability, the student can also study the effects of new environment-friendly fire retardants such as nanoparticles and intumescent coatings.

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

The Fire Dynamics and Material Lab (FML) at FireSERT is equipped with a range of advanced micro-scale experimental apparatus capable of detailed measurements of thermal degradation of mg samples, including thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), attenuated total reflectance (ATR), tube furnace and two cone calorimeters. These apparatus are supplemented with advance analytical software.

Large-scale test facilities include single burning item (SBI) and ISO corner test and a number of experimental rigs that have been used in previous and current PhD or research projects including a corridor-like enclosure and glazing system. There are also a full-scale furnace (4x3x3 m3) and a 10 MW hood.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

The research in material flammability and fire dynamics crosses disciplines of engineering and chemistry. The student is expected to develop advanced knowledge and skills in both of these areas. The student will design and conduct experiments (micro- to large-scale), develop advanced analytical skills and learn complex experimental instrumentation skills with an emphasis on the action and effectiveness of modern fire retardants. Those knowledge and skills would be highly transferable to any other related areas.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

FML at FireSERT has collaborated with a number of national and international organisations and is currently having joint EU and National projects in the field of fire dynamics and material flammability.  FML has also been collaborating with a number of fire retardants companies in developing new environmentally-friend fire retardants. This research will provide the student of excellent opportunities to work closely with these companies in understanding the fire retardant action and effectiveness of modern fire retardants. The student will also present research outputs at international conferences.


Theme Five

Theme Title

Human Behaviour in Fire and Emergencies

Named Supervisors

Dr Karen Boyce, Dr Nigel McConnell

Theme Description

This research area is the study of people’s awareness, beliefs, attitudes, motivations, decisions, behaviour and coping strategies relative to fire and emergencies and the factors that influence them.  The area spans pre, peri and post events, i.e. the preparedness of individuals or organisations for evacuation, through evacuation behaviour to post evacuation analysis of the impact of their involvement.  It is highly multidisciplinary traversing the fields of psychology, sociology, human factors, mathematics, engineering, architecture, health and safety. The primary aim of this research is to minimise the risk to people from fire. This is achieved by generating and collecting quantitative and qualitative data and information which can be used to develop theories for use in fire safety education and management, performance based design and evacuation modelling.

Research projects in the following, or any other related research area, are welcome:

  • behavioural responses to fire cues and influencing factors
  • movement dynamics and impact of changing demographics
  • stair usage (merging behaviours, impact of fatigue)
  • fire safety for vulnerable populations (children, elderly, disabled)
  • human behaviour in domestic settings
  • understanding the impact of training and community fire safety programmes
  • impact of involvement in fire e.g. PTSD

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

Supervisors have worked and published in the field of human behaviour in fire for many years.   Students will be based in the FireSERT laboratories with other Phd students, researchers and academic staff.  The nature of the work will depend on the proposed topic but may involve (in addition to desk top research) experimental work (laboratory or field), surveys, interview studies of survivors of real fires etc.  Potential monitoring/measuring equipment are available i.e. cameras, eye-tracking equipment and the research team have links to other departments in the University eg Sports Science where more specialist movement monitoring equipment is available.

Skills required from the applicant: In delivery of this theme you will have an appropriate degree in (subject discipline) and possibly a relevant postgraduate qualification. The skills you bring will be...

In delivery of this theme you will have a degree or masters degree in a cognate discipline.  This may include, but is not limited to, Psychology, Sociology, Fire Safety Engineering, Health and Safety, Human Factors.    Good oral and written communication skills are essential. The applicant should be able to demonstrate evidence of conducting previous independent research.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

This research area potentially transverses the disciplines of psychology, sociology, human factors, mathematics, engineering, architecture, health and safety. Irrespective of the project, it is inevitable that interdisciplinary working will take place across one or more of these areas. In undertaking this type of research the student will develop a high level of creativity and innovation in research design, demonstrate their ability to collect, analyse and present complex data using a range of methods and techniques and recognise the potential application of the research in the wider context of fire safety engineering, fire safety education or management.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

FireSERT’s HBiF group have been active in the field internationally for over 25 years and have many close contacts in the international arena.  There will be opportunities to work network with other researchers and practitioners e.g. at the International Association of Fire Safety Science Symposium, the International Symposium on Human Behaviour in Fire and other prestigious fire symposia.   The team have close relations with the fire services, controlling authorities, engineering practitioners and evacuation modellers, and international researchers all of which can be exploited in the pursuit of a valid research project.


Theme Six

Theme Title

Structures and Materials Behaviour in Fires

Named Supervisors

Prof Ali Nadjai, Prof Faris Ali, Dr Bryan Magee

Theme Description

The principal thrust is the experimental evaluation of the structural behaviour in fire of a variety of materials and structural assemblies. The focus is on the principal building materials i.e. steel, concrete, brickwork, timber, Fiber Reinforced Plastic “FRP”, flooring systems, Facades Glazing panel systems and compartmentation. The second thrust is the study of the correlation between thermo-structural response and the quantification of thermal onslaught and transmission, seeking definitions of fire severity on structures. Fire testing studies examined furnace severity on both the large scale and indicative furnaces at FireSERT, complying with European Standards, enable direct correlation to end user needs. In examining the behaviour of structural assemblies in fire, the principal objective of FireSERT’s research is to use experimental parametric studies to provide comprehensive scale model test data. This informs design guidance within a limit state philosophy (parametric experimental data linked to computer simulations forming the basis of statistical and sensitivity analyses). For cost effective research FireSERT also have a number of small purpose designed furnaces for this research work. The Structural Fire Engineering Current Principal Research Programmes Focus On:

  • Fire Performance of FRP in Precast and Reinforced Concrete Slabs
  • Fire resistance of Ultra high strength concrete columns, beams and slabs with reference to spalling
  • Steel and concrete elements in extreme fire environment including protection
  • Composite floor systems
  • Repair strengthening and protection
  • Numerical modelling of the thermal impact of fire on structural materials
  • Storage in warehouses, steel frames in fire situations and interaction with sprinkler system
  • Protection of offshore platform due to hydrocarbon fire
  • Fire performance of Polymer Material and coating protections

Outline of the Research Environment in which this project will take place e.g. facilities, equipment etc.

FireSERT has state of the art research facilities which are virtually unique within a university setting. These include a 600m2 burn hall which houses a range of calorimeters including a ten-megawatt facility for full-scale research. Large-scale combination wall and floor furnaces together with intermediate/small scale furnaces facilitate experimental research and product development. Equipment to be used in this project is listed as: crane, data logging systems, thermocouples, LVDTS, large furnace, load cells, hydraulic loading equipment, dynamic loading equipment. Concrete labincluding using concrete mixers, vibrating table, curing tanks.

Describe the potential Interdisciplinary Research Options and/or Transferrable Skills that arise from the intended PhD research activity

The research in Structures and Materials Behaviour in Fires involves a wide range of disciplines such as engineering, materials, Chemistry, mathematics and computer advanced software.  The diversity of this research theme means that the student will potentially cross these disciplines. Depending on the specific project, the student will learn experimental fire modelling, Fire Resistance, material behaviours in fire, Euro code design development, Finite element modelling using sophisticated software and the structural fire using the design performance best approach.  Extended the existing Euro code design method, produce quality journal papers and key conference presentation.

Outline the potential opportunities for International Networking and Industry Interaction that may enhance the PhD researchers' future mobility

FireSERT has collaborated with a number of national and international organisations and is currently involved in deferent projects linked with European, industrial and building control partners in the sustainability and resilient buildings.  FireSERT's unique data was used by British Steel to press the UK case regarding the plate thermometer in European harmonisation debates. FireSERT possess the only heat flux-time curves for the Cardington LBTF full scale compartment fire tests and the NFSC2 compartment tests and recently conducted large scale fire compartment for long cellular beams with a recent development of new Eurocode.The research student will have opportunities to attend meet with experts in his research area and also to collaborate with other leading groups in the School Built Environment.