Apple Spectroscopy Journal Article

New Peer-Reviewed Article Featured on the Cover of Applied Spectroscopy

April 17, 2023

The article ‘Quantification of Elevated Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) Concentration Typical in a Residential Fire Environment Using Mid-IR Tunable Diode Laser’ was published in the April 2023 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Applied Spectroscopy. Hydrogen cyanide, a product of incomplete combustion of several materials used in contemporary home furnishings and building construction, is of particular interest for the fire safety research community and first responders. Being a systemic poison, it can cause physical discomfort to humans at low concentrations and loss of consciousness or death at higher concentrations. Portable HCN measurement systems capable of measuring elevated concentrations that are expected in the residential fire environment with a short time resolution are not commercially available.

The article was authored by UL's Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) Post-Doctoral Researcher, Shruti Ghanekar, and FSRI research engineers, Richard Kessler and Gavin Horn, along with collaborators from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Hanyang University. The manuscript details the development and demonstrates the applicability of a new portable HCN measurement system in a typical residential fire environment. The development of the measurement system was a part of the Coordinated Fire Attack project, and the measurement system was used to collect data as part of the Size-up, Search and Rescue project. Additional support was provided by Illinois Fire Service Institute and UL Research Institutes.

The development of this new HCN measurement system will enable us to assess the effects of smoke exposure on potential trapped occupants with greater accuracy, thus improving our understanding of the acute risks present in the residential fire environment.

- Shruti Ghanekar

Post-Doctoral Researcher, FSRI


A portable tunable diode laser based measurement system for measuring elevated concentrations of hydrogen cyanide in a time-resolved manner is developed for application in the fire environment. The design and development of the measurement system is described in detail along with initial demonstrations of its potential applications. It is first validated in the laboratory with calibration gases of known HCN concentration. It is then deployed in a controlled fire environment in a firefighter training structure to measure and track HCN concentration from ignition of a typical residential upholstered furniture item through fire suppression and ventilation of the structure. These time-resolved measurements are then used to compare HCN concentrations at three heights of interest in terms of exposure in a non-fire room, using identical fuels.

The versatility and portability of the measurement system is further demonstrated through HCN concentration measurements made in gases sampled from two locations in a full-scale realistic residential fire environment. The changes in HCN concentration due to simulated firefighter intervention activities are tracked throughout the experiment. These measurements represent one of the first attempts to quantify elevated HCN concentrations in a realistic residential fire environment using an optical laser-based technique at a sampling frequency of 1 Hz.

In future work, these measurements could be used to improve existing tenability assessments with actual time-resolved HCN measurements in place of commonly used methods that average concentrations over the duration of the measurement or modeled estimates. Furthermore, the HCN measurement system could be employed to gather time-resolved HCN concentration data in a variety of fire environments including but not limited to multifamily residential fires, aircraft fires, industrial fires, storage facility fires, wildland urban interface (WUI) fires, etc. Different conditions of fuel, ventilation and structure configurations, as well as impact of various intervention activities in such environments on HCN concentration and its consequence on tenability of those environments could also be studied in the future.

Read the full article.

About Applied Spectroscopy:


Applied Spectroscopy® is one of the world's leading spectroscopy journals, publishing high-quality articles, both fundamental and applied, covering all aspects of spectroscopy. Established in 1951, the journal is owned by the Society for Applied Spectroscopy and is published monthly. The journal is dedicated to fulfilling the mission of the Society to “…advance and disseminate knowledge and information concerning the art and science of spectroscopy and other allied sciences.” All manuscripts are rigorously peer-reviewed.

The journal publishes high-impact reviews, original research papers, and technical notes. In keeping with the society mandate, review papers are made freely available to download. This means that the articles will be accessible at the time of publication to scientists, students, and the general public worldwide.

Study of Fire Service Residential Home Size-up and Search & Rescue Operations