The Fire Safety Engineering Research & Technology Centre
Fire Research Hall
FireSERT has a state-of-the-art fire research (burn) hall, 30m x 20m in area and 18m in height, to facilitate two/three storey rigs to be built and utilised. In addition to its extensive array of major equipment, the research centre is staffed by a team of Project Engineers who are dedicated to the delivery of a quality service. FireSERT has sought ISO 17025 (ISO9001) and UKAS accreditation and operates a quality management system.
3 Megawatt Calorimeter, ISO9705 And SBI Apparatus
FireSERT has undertaken medium to small-scale research in its ISO 9705 Standard Room for the past ten years. This 2.4m x 3.6m x2.4m room has been used to progress FireSERT's extensive glazing and enclosure linings research. Its exhaust system and instrumentation also serves the Single Burning Item (SBI) Apparatus and other small-scale equipment.
Fire Research Hall Control Room
A first floor control room that overlooks the Fire Research Hall complements the FireSERT laboratory and it's facilities. Computer simulated images and monitors enable control and data collection to this central point.
Calorimeters 10 Megawatt To Bench Scale
The central feature of the Fire Research Hall is a 10 megawatt calorimeter hood which is 9mx 9m in area with a maximum of 9m clearance from the floor. The hood has variable height perimeter skirting, that can be raised and lowered as required. The capacity of the hood extraction is 75m3 per second. Data collection is relayed to an adjacent elevated control room from which visitors may view ongoing research projects.
1 Megawatt And Bench Scale Calorimeters
In addition to the large calorimeters, FireSERT's smaller scale Fire Dynamics Laboratory is equipped with a one-megawatt calorimeter and two unique bench calorimeters one with surround environment control that permits analysis in both open architecture and controlled atmosphere. The revolutionary design of the bench scale apparatus enables use for both standard protocols such as cone calorimetry, and exploratory research using a wide range of ignition and radiant sources. The apparatus also includes Fourier Trans form Infrared Radiometer (FTIR) and Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS) instrumentation, providing a uniquely powerful research tool.
Centre for Sustainable Technologies
Energy Research Facilities
The University of Ulster has invested heavily in Energy Research with the £1.5M ENERF laboratory complex, a major component of the Harry Ferguson Engineering Village situated at the Jordanstown campus. This and the subsequent equipment investments of £1.85M have been supported by the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF) as a direct result of the performance of the group in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise where research in the University of Ulster's School of the Built Environment was rated 5, ranking it 2nd in the UK.
The ENERF building consists of nine laboratory spaces, the largest being the general laboratory containing the phase change material/chilled beam ceiling/human comfort controlled environment test room, the small scale computer controlled glazing test facility, the large scale computer controlled glazing test facility and the solar simulator, as well as general fabrication and maintenance equipment. The latter is also supported by a technical support room adjacent to the general laboratory. This investment has seen the laboratories equipped with Technical Support, extensive computing and workstation facilities, gas chromatography, particle image velicometry, spectroscopy and extensive data acquisition equipment. Additional fluid flow analysis is provided by a UVP-DUO and further analysis can be provided by a Differential Scanning Calorimeter and a Bookfield Viscometer. A Dantec Dynamics mannequin, which can simulate the thermal response of the human body, is utilised for human thermal comfort studies associated with advanced vacuum glazing and PCM/energy storage. Two high specification infrared cameras have been acquired for building heat loss and thermal characterisation of the advanced vacuum glazing. One is for long-wave analysis while the other is for short wave analysis.
The advanced glazing laboratory is a climate controlled clean room environment necessary for successful fabrication of advanced vacuum glazing. Specialist laboratory facilities includes two high specification, high vacuum ovens and associated controls and data acquisition systems, commercial scale ultrasonic glass cleaning facilities, a large-scale conventional oven, a large-scale calorimeter/durability test facility and a window weather test facility.
In support of solar activities, a solar simulator with a novel methodology of ensuring light collimation has been constructed and a solar tracker has been installed on the building to ascertain the effect of the sun's path on the performance of external experiments. The external experiments are carried out on a south-facing roof with easy access and are serviced to accommodate solar thermal and PV environmental testing. This is directly above the €100K vertically orientated PV facade comprising a 11.8 kW peak array of state-of-the-art mono-crystalline cells, which supplies electricity directly to the University of Ulster.
The general laboratory space is climate controlled and thus benefits the modelling and characterisation of the glazing, phase change materials and solar experimentation. In addition, a dedicated downdraft solar evaluation area to ascertain effects of changing heat transfer coefficient with changing air flow and temperature is provided.
Funding has also been secured to construct a new downdraft gasifier, engine and generator to deliver up to 25kW of electricity and 100kW of heat to the University while undergoing tests of various biomass fuels and fuel preparation techniques. This is to be housed in a refurbished laboratory near to the ENERF complex along with the heat pump development and test facilities, which will enhance the previous work carried out in ENERF while also leading to EN14511 accreditation and thus being the only such accredited laboratory in Ireland.
Highway Engineering Research Facilities
The laboratory that specialises in the assessment of highway materials using a wide range of standard and non-standard methods developed in-house to understand material response to simulated environmental and in-service stressing conditions.
The laboratory has all of the standard aggregate, bitumen and asphalt mix testing apparatus including Marshall, gyratory and vibratory methods of compaction, Nottingham Asphalt Tester, dry and immersion wheel trackers. The laboratory has unique specialised equipment such as the Road Test Machine and ULTRA. The Road Test Machine is approved by the British Board of Agrement for assessing the performance of High Friction Surfacing materials and has been used to research the development of asphalt properties such as early life skid resistance. The ULTRA allows asphalt slabs to be assessed for high speed skid resistance and determination of their noise characteristics.
River Hydraulics and Hydropower Research
There is a well equipped hydraulics laboratory for modelling of compound channel flows. A compound open channel 10m long by 0.75m wide is available together with appropriate instrumentation which includes two ADV probes for velocity measurement, digital discharge measurement devices, a sand feeder for mobile boundary studies, digital depth scales, a computer controlled mobile bed plotter and associated computer facilities.
The laboratory also has the services of a full time Technician with extensive experience of experimental hydraulics research.
The architecture facilities are mainly based in the newly developed Belfast campus. The school houses modern facilities for architecture including simulation software for thermal and daylight analysis. Studio spaces as well as wood and metal workshops are also available which have fully qualified technicians.
Research on Property Planning
Several research projects in the Centre for Research on Property and Planning are making use of GIS as an effective tool in property and planning decision making for both public and private sector organisations. Examples of leading edge research include contributions to the review of domestic rating system in Northern Ireland and the examination of factors leading to identification of the optimal sites for new infrastructure. To enable RPP to deliver this high level of GIS-based research, strong relationships exist with the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI), other strategic data providers, and data users/stakeholder organisations.
The recently refurbished Urban Planning Studio provides access to high-specification desktop PCs capable of running memory intensive software applications such as GIS. Sixteen PCs are available in this space dedicated to the Urban Planning programme, each with 2Gb of RAM and a 19-inch monitor. In addition a dedicated Computing Research Suite has 19 thin client terminals linked to the research computing cluster. The cluster consists of two Sun Microsystem 16-core computers running proprietary and in-house developed computational fluid dynamics software on RedHat. An 8-core Sun Microsystem SPARC microprocessor machine running Solaris for computational operations and a 24-machine Sun Microsystem Blade server running GIS and other high-computing software packages.
The software platform for GIS is ArcGIS Desktop version 9.2 produced by ESRI. This software license is to be further extended to enhance accessibility to more complex applications and extensions, such as ArcInfo. In addition to ArcGIS software extensive datasets are licensed from OSNI covering all of Northern Ireland, including postcode and road network data. These are core tools have been and will continue to be utilised across various research projects.
Research Institute Annual Reports
PhD Research Opportunities
Research Graduate School - Research Opportunities
PhD Studentship Topics - Built Environment