Cone calorimeter with flames

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Provides Guidance for Conducting Cone Calorimeter Tests on Liquid Fuels

October 21, 2021

Testing of liquids with the cone calorimeter, a peer-reviewed journal article led by FSRI Research Engineer Matt DiDomizio and co-authored by colleagues from the University of Waterloo, Vusal Ibrahimli and Elizabeth J. Weckman, was recently published and named the Editor-in-Chief’s Featured Article for the December 2021 issue of the Fire Safety Journal. This journal article provides researchers and cone calorimeter test practitioners the necessary technical basis for adoption of a test protocol suitable for liquid fuels. 

Objectives from this study were to: 

  1.  Identify the cone calorimeter test results that best characterize the fire performance of liquids.
  2.  Investigate the impacts of experimental conditions on test results for liquids.
  3.  Develop guidelines for the testing of liquids with the cone calorimeter based on the above findings.

The cone calorimeter is traditionally used to measure the response of solid materials to radiant heating. Liquids are also commonly tested, but the methods employed are varied and inconsistent. There is a need to understand how the experimental conditions impact test results, and to develop formal guidance on a testing protocol for liquids. The cone calorimeter can be used to characterize the fire performance of liquids according to their propensities for ignition, boiling, and burning, as well as their combustion characteristics. A literature review was carried out to understand the breadth of apparatus and procedures used to date and their impacts on test results. 

From this, a series of recommendations were developed for adapting the test protocol for liquids:

  • The vessel used should be circular; steel, borosilicate glass, or fused quartz; positioned on 13 mm of flat ceramic fiber insulation within a larger spillage containment pan; and have a diameter between 65 mm and 90 mm. 
  • Liquid depths of 10 mm should be used.
  • Tests should nominally be conducted at a heat flux of 10 kW⋅m−2. 

This research was conducted as part of the “Thermal Decomposition of Materials” project and provides the necessary technical basis for adoption of a consistent methodology for cone calorimeter testing of liquids.

CLICK HERE to read this journal article. 


(Figure 1) Typical burning phases for small-scale fixed-volume confined liquid fires.

Liquid tested in the cone calorimeter, having pan diameters ranging from 5 cm to 20 cm, are classified as small-scale fixed-volume confined liquid fires. Such fires may be described by up to five distinct phases of burning as depicted in Fig. 1.


About Fire Safety Journal: 

Fire Safety Journal is the leading publication dealing with all aspects of fire safety engineering. Its scope is purposefully wide, as it is deemed important to encourage papers from all sources within this multidisciplinary subject, thus providing a forum for its further development as a distinct engineering discipline. This is an essential step towards gaining a status equal to that enjoyed by the other engineering disciplines.


Thermal Decomposition of Materials