Sofa on fire - hero image used as an example for material and products database research

Journal Article Reports on Materials and Products Database that Helps Fire Modelers Predict Material Performance

June 18, 2024

The new peer-reviewed article, Fire Safety Research Institute Materials and Products Database—A Resource to Support Fire Modeling, has been published in the Journal of Fire Sciences. This manuscript provides the technical background for the data in the Materials and Products (MaP) Database. The paper was authored by Mark McKinnon and Grayson Bellamy from the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of UL Research Institutes, and builds on the Thermal Decomposition of Materials and Fire Incident Analysis projects as well as the Materials and Products Database program.

The MaP Database fills a knowledge gap

The manuscript presents a proof of concept and a demonstration of the experimental and analytical procedures used to determine the material properties for the MaP Database, using polycarbonate as an example. The inclusion of data collected on polycarbonate was motivated by a 2005 line-of-duty death in Pennsylvania, where a senior instructor’s polycarbonate facepiece lens failed due to excessive thermal exposure. At the time, fire modelers were unable to mathematically recreate this incident, in part due to the limited materials property data. Since then, FSRI has introduced the MaP Database, based on extensively researching the properties, ignition parameters, and burning behaviors of more than 100 materials commonly found in the built environment. The database aims to fill this gap in knowledge and prevent such tragedies from occurring again. 

The research presented in this article represents the culmination of the core work that constitutes the MaP Database. The objectives of this manuscript were to: 

  • review the background and history of past efforts to create materials product databases; 
  • offer a technical justification for the protocol developed for the MaP Database;
  • examine a case study on polycarbonate, including the experimental data and calculations used to determine the properties of the material; and
  • validate the measured and derived properties by developing a pyrolysis model and comparing its predictions to bench-scale experimental data.

The MaP Database provides technical justification and compelling evidence for fire investigation 

Since its introduction in 2023, the MaP database has been widely recognized for being comprehensive, reliable, and transparent. However, this peer-reviewed research now gives fire investigators and fire safety engineers the confidence and technical justification to use the database in their work. 

“The development of this material characterization protocol and the database has been a multi-year effort in which many FSRI staff have invested time and energy. This work has the potential to change how fire investigations and the design of buildings are conducted and will result in a safer and more fire resilient world.” —Mark McKinnon, lead research engineer, FSRI

The accuracy and reliability of fire models are directly dependent on the quality and comprehensiveness of the input data. The MaP Database, backed by this peer-reviewed research, addresses past shortcomings of material databases, strengthens fire models, and makes great strides in fostering a safer built environment. 

Read the peer-reviewed journal article:

This work was funded in part by the National Institute of Justice (U.S.) through grant 2019-DU-BX-0018.

About the Journal of Fire Sciences:

The Journal of Fire Sciences is a leading, peer-reviewed international journal for the reporting of new and significant fundamental and applied research within the fire safety science community. Its overall content is generally aimed toward the prevention and mitigation of the adverse effects of fires involving combustible materials. 

Thermal Decomposition of Materials
Development of an Interactive Database of Contemporary Material Properties for Fire Modeling
Fire Incident Analysis