Depending on one’s perspective, the term ‘research’ evokes visions of a room filled with rows of test tubes or instrumentation or mechanical equipment. At UL LLC, laboratories such as these exist, along with other facilities not typically associated with research.
UL was established on research conducted by its founder, William Henry Merrill, whose work was to determine the cause of fires in the Chicago Expedition’s ‘House of Electricity’. His guiding principle of “Know by test and state the facts” is the foundation of UL’s Research and Development Department.
UL has a multi-disciplined research group consisting of scientists, engineers and highly experienced technicians, with teams focused on the following areas:
Exploring one of UL’s research teams further, the fire team applies Fire Protection Engineering principles to improve the understanding of fire hazards. The individuals of the Fire Team work to find solutions to problems that arise from multiple stakeholders – UL’s customers, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ’s), insurance companies, other researchers and UL engineers. They have tested everything from holiday decorations to hamburgers and clothes dryers to batteries.
The Fire Team uses their combined knowledge and skills to study fire hazards from thermal exposure to ignition and growth, and the mitigation of fire hazards by detection, suppression and containment. In some instances they not only investigate the thermal aspects of a fire, but also the combustion products that fire produces among other complex aspects of what many may presume to be simply ‘fire’.
One of the most significant ways in which the fire research team contributes to UL’s business and public safety mission is the development of new UL standards to evaluate a material, product, or system’s performance when subjected to fire – specific tests in specific time and environmental conditions. Two examples of new standards development include an outline of investigation (OOI) for oxygen reduction fire protection systems and an OOI for flammable liquid storage fire protection media. Along with the development of new standards, the team is asked to review and propose changes to existing standards. While the fundamentals of fire have not changed, instrumentation, measurements, data processing, controls and the general understanding of fire have progressed. These advancements in technology are deployed to improve UL’s standards.
In addition to standards activities, members of the team conduct experiments and analyze data from specialized tests designed to explore fire hazards which fall outside the scope of current standards. Examples include packaging systems for battery shipment, analysis of test furnace conditions, and smoke particulate and gas composition of fire effluents. The information gathered from these tests advances the application of fire protection principles to improve safety.
In summary, UL LLC has a Research and Development group with teams focused on multiple aspects of safety. Should you wish additional information, please contact:
Electrical – Paul Brazis (Paul.Brazis@ul.com)
Fire – Bob Backstrom (Robert.G.Backstrom@ul.com)
Materials – Tom Fabian (Thomas.Fabian@ul.com) or Carl Wang (Carl.Wang@ul.com)
Modeling – Mahmood Tabbador (Mahmood.Tabaddor@ul.com)