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What Is a Cone Calorimeter?

Alex Newth
Alex Newth

A cone calorimeter is a large device that heats samples to understand the samples' combustion properties. It is called a cone calorimeter because the part that heats the sample is conical in shape; compared to the rest of the machine, however, it is a rather small unit. Aside from the conical heater, there are other important parts, such as the specimen holder, a shutter mechanism and sampler units. Overall, this calorimeter is used in fire safety engineering, and manufacturers and government research labs use it most often. This allows users to understand the combustion elements of a material to measurement its safety.

Cone calorimeters are large devices made for the purpose of taking specimens and setting them on fire. These specimens can be samples of furniture, insulation materials or types of cloth. The purpose for setting the specimen on fire is to understand how much heat and energy is needed for the sample to combust, how much smoke it produces when it does, how much mass is lost, and how much oxygen is depleted. By understanding these measurements, engineers can recognize how hazardous the material is to use.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

There are many different calorimeters, but the cone calorimeter is special because it uses a cone-shaped heating unit. Known as a conical heater, this unit is responsible for heat output and is the most used item on the calorimeter. To make materials combust, the conical heater outputs high amounts of energy and turns the electricity into heat. While this is one of the most important parts on the calorimeter, it also is a very small part compared to the whole machine.

While the conical heater may be the most important unit, there are other important units required for a cone calorimeter to accurately measure combustion information. The specimen holder is needed to secure the specimen, while the shutter mechanism protects the sample area and the operators. There also are many sampling units that test the amount of oxygen, loss of mass and amount of smoke.

A cone calorimeter, overall, is used predominantly in the engineering field to test materials for fire safety. The largest users of this calorimeter are manufacturers who test a product before selling it. Other common users are government and independent labs that are performing research and commercial testing. By understanding how a material works under extreme heats, safety regulations and laws can be made to assure the safety of people using and working with the material.

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