Fire Safety Engineering Group
Over the past twenty year this award-winning team have developed advanced computer modelling techniques to predict how fires behave in buildings, aircraft and ships and examined how people behave in emergency situations.
As one of the world's leading research groups in this field, their technologies have been adopted widely by the aviation industry, builders, planners and national governments.
How it all began
The Group can trace its origins back to Professor Ed Galea's research into a fatal fire onboard a Boeing 737 at Manchester airport in 1985. Unimpressed with the existing software tools for simulating fires he decided to develop his own from scratch.
His work led to the development of the SMARTFIRE fire simulation and EXODUS evacuation simulation suite of software tools, which are now licensed to engineering groups, architectural firms, universities and research laboratories in more than 30 countries around the world. The airEXODUS evacuation model is a world leader in the aviation industry and has been used in projects for Boeing, Airbus, British Aerospace and Bombardier.
Expanding their expertise
The Group has subsequently created versions of EXODUS for building and ship evacuations and is now working on a similar model for the rail industry. The technology was also bought by the National Institute of Standards and Technology - the US government agency that investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre - to help gain an understanding of what went on during the evacuation of the Twin Towers.
The Group has helped design the Airbus 380 superjumbo, and worked on evacuation procedures for the Millenium Dome and sporting venues for the Sydney and Beijing Olympic Games. They've also advised fire brigades on evacuation procedures and provided expert witness advice for inquiries and legal hearings.
One of the group's main strengths is that its 32 members are made up of engineers, mathematicians, software engineers and psychologists. They also have around 12 PhD students. One of them is developing a mathematical technique to optimise building design so that the layout minimises the time taken for evacuation. While another student has been very successful in analysing and predicting the production and concentration of toxic gases in building fires.
Anti terrorism work is a developing field for the Group. They've produced a number of models to represent the impact of terrorist attacks on particular types of buildings in order to come up with ways to mitigate their effect.
They're also using computer modelling to design structures such as airport terminals not just to be safe, but also to be as efficient as possible for the daily throughput of large numbers of people.
And thanks to their work with the Sydney and Beijing Olympic Games, they feel they have a lot to contribute to the 2012 London Olympics - especially as it will be taking place on their doorstep.