Publication Date

Fall 12-2012

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Ivan Novikov; Dr. Keith Andrew; Dr. Shane M. Palmquist

Degree Program

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Degree Type

Master of Science in Homeland Security Sciences


Bridges in the US are severely damaged or suffer collapse from fires at significant rates, even when compared to other hazards such as earthquakes. Fire-induced bridge collapses are perpetuated by the general lack of installed fire protection systems. Therefore, new materials and applications are needed to mitigate structural damage that can be caused to civil infrastructure by severe fires. Accordingly, the objective of this study is to further the development of new fire protection applications in transportation structures. Specifically, the investigation centers on the development of new applications in passive fire protection materials, within the context of shielding steel-girder bridges against severe fire effects. A steel-girder bridge has been selected for study, and a high-resolution finite element model has been formed based on the corresponding bridge structural drawings. Temperature-dependent structural material properties and thermal properties have been synthesized and incorporated into the model. Additionally, a representative fire scenario has been formed (in part) based on a recent fire incident that occurred at the selected bridge site. The fire scenario also incorporates the characteristics of a fully loaded gasoline tank truck fire, where a means of incorporating the severe fire into the finite element model (as thermal loading) has been identified and enacted. Coupled thermal-mechanical finite element analyses have been carried out using the (unprotected) steel-girder bridge model. An additional finite element simulation has been carried out, where the steel-girder bridge model has been fitted with a refractory cement material that insulates the underside of the bridge spans. Also, a finite element simulation has been carried out where the steel-girder bridge model has been fitted with intumescent coating material as insulation against fire effects. Both the refractory cement and the intumescent coating materials have been found to possess robust insulation characteristics from the simulation results. Namely, the finite element analysis results indicate that, in the event of a bridge fire, both materials are capable of preventing the buildup of damaging temperatures in underlying structural members. Accordingly, the refractory cement and intumescent coating materials have been identified as successful passive fire protection materials for the fire scenario and bridge case considered.


Civil Engineering | Physics