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Role of two stage pyrolysis in fire growth on flexible polyurethane foam slabs


  • William M. Pitts

    Corresponding author
    1. Engineering Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, USA
    • Correspondence to: William M. Pitts, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8665, USA.


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A series of experiments designed to characterize fire behavior on flat 1.2 m × 1.2 m samples of commercial non-fire-retarded flexible polyurethane foam were performed. Time-resolved heat release and mass loss rates were measured. Experimental parameters varied, including foam thickness (5.1 and 10.2 cm) and burning angle (+25°, +12.5°, 0°, −12.5°, and −25°). Polyurethane foam is typically produced by reacting a multifunctional isocyanate with a polyol. The foam used here was formed by reacting toluene diisocyanate and a polyol based on a condensed polyether of polypropylene oxide. Earlier cone calorimeter studies of this foam had revealed a clear two stage pyrolysis behavior in which the heated foam first released a gaseous fuel derived from the isocyanate component, while leaving behind a liquid produced primarily from the polyol, which only gasified and burned following additional heating. The subsequent burning behavior of the polyol-derived liquid is shown in this work to play a crucial role in the maximum heat release rate and total heat released by the fires spreading across the foam slabs. Published 2013. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.