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News in 2021

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Christmas & New Year Party

Dec 2021

The Christmas-New Year Party 2021 was successfully held on 20 December 2021 at PolyU Block Z. Over 25 members of the Fire Lab gathered together to celebrate Christmas and the new year. With delicious food and drinks, the SFPE Hong Kong Student Chapter prepared mini-games and gifts for everybody. All participants had a wonderful experience and immensely enjoyed the event.

The joyful moments captured during the Party can be viewed at our Photo Gallery.


 Smart Digital Twin for Tunnel Fire

Dec 2021

Realizing the smart firefighting in infrastructure requires a digital twin including the IoT sensor network and AI engine to identify the complex fire scene inside buildings. Our latest work demonstrates such a smart firefighting system in a tunnel model with collaboration with the University of Hong Kong. This paper is published in Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology, and a patent is filed. 


Modeling the Quenching of Smoldering Fire

Dec 2021

Modeling the quenching (or extinction by cooling) of smoldering fire is a challenging task, as it is a multi-dimensional process. Recently, Shaorun successfully use a comprehensive physics-based model to predict the quenching behavior of smoldering, which provides a deeper understanding of the persistence and extinction limit of smoldering fire phenomena. This work has been published in Combustion and Flame.

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Using Smoke Image to Predict Fire inside Building

Dec 2021

During a fire event, it is difficult to identify the fire scene inside the building that is covered by heavy smoke. In contrast, it is easy to observe the smoke and fire outside the building. By using artificial intelligence, we are able to use the external smoke image to predict the fire scene inside the building, which can support the real-time firefighting and rescue operation. This work led by Zilong has been published in the Journal of Building Engineering.

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 Outstanding Paper Prize from the International Battery Fire Symposium

Nov 2021

The paper entitled "Mitigating Thermal Runaway Propagation of NCM 811 Prismatic Batteries via Hollow Glass Microspheres Plates" won the Outstanding Paper Prize at the 2nd International Symposium on Lithium Battery Fire Safety (ISLBFS). It is co-authored by Xinyan and Yanhui with the collaborators from Guangzhou Institute of Industrial Technology. The ultra-light plates based on hollow glass microspheres (HGM) were prepared in this work to serve as firewalls in the large-format battery module. Currently, the paper is submitted for journal publication.

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Can we blow-off the smoldering fire?

Nov 2021

Propagation of smoldering combustion and its blow-off phenomena are of practical importance in evaluating the fire dynamics of solid fuels, but the scientific understanding is still limited. The recent  experimental work led by Shaorun advanced the fundamental understanding of the smoldering propagation, blow-off, and its persistence. This fundamental research helps set a guideline for the fire suppression strategies of smoldering. This work has been published in Combustion and Flame.


New Exchange PhD Student from Malaysia

Nov 2021

Ms Dayang Musa, a PhD Student from Universiti Putra Malaysia, will exchange in PolyU Fire Lab for 6 months. She is an ecologist and a junior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sabah. Her current PhD research focuses on smouldering peatland and the suppression of peat fire. Dayang is supervised by Dr Zahirasri Mohd Tohir and Dr Xinyan Huang.


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Ho Yin won HK$600K from PolyU Maker Fund Programme 2021

Nov 2021

Ho Yin’s project entitled “Smart Building Emergency System” was selected ultimately to enjoy a 24-month incubation and funding support of HK$600,000 in PolyU Maker Fund Programme 2021. Under the supervision of Dr Xinyan Huang, the proposed Smart Building Emergency System will apply artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies into a smart signage network that can guide residences towards the shortest and safest evacuation paths in a fire event. This system will be a core component of the novel smart firefighting technology developed in PolyU (SureFire Project).

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Full-scale tunnel fire tests domonstrates the smart firefighting system

Nov 2021

PolyU SureFire Team successfully conducted serval large scale tunnel fire tests in a 140-m long full-scale tunnel in Sichuan Fire Research Institute (SCFRI). The purpose of the full-scale tunnel fire tests is to investigate the tunnel fire dynamics and demonstrate the smart tunnel firefighting system using collected realistic data. The SCFRI tunnel fire tests are carried out by Xiaoning, Zhuojun and collaborators in Dujiangyan, Sichuan. Currently, most of the tests are successfully completed, and the data are under analysis. 

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Fire hazards of Li-ion battery under low pressure

Oct 2021

Facing the frequent fire incidents in the air transport of massive batteries, more reliable fire prediction and protection strategies under low-pressures conditions are urgently needed. Herein, we investigate the thermal runaway characteristics of battery piles inside a novel low-pressure chamber to explain the effects of pressure and pile size on battery thermal runaway. This work is in collaboration with Guangzhou Institute of Industrial Technology, State Key Laboratory of Space Power Technology, and Zhejiang University. The paper is led by Yanhui and has been published in Process Safety and Environmental Protection.

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How to estimate the burning rate in space?

Oct 2021

In the spacecraft environment, the absence of gravity makes the measurement of mass burning rate of solid fuels challenging. To solve this problem, we proposed three indirect methods to quantify the fuel burning rate in microgravity by measuring (1) the regression rate of fuel surface, (2) the spread rate of flame leading edge, and (3) the flame-sheet area. After examining these methods on Earth and in space station experiments, we found that measuring the flame-sheet area is easier and gives more accurate predictions. This work led by Dr Caiyi Xiong has been accepted for publication in Combustion and Flame.


Acoustic extinction or wind blowoff?

Oct 2021

Many past research believe that acoustic wave can be used to extinguish the flame. However, why can we not feel any flow when hearing sound in life? Our latest experiments confirmed that flame extinction is almost independent of acoustic waves, but is caused by the airflow produced by the fluctuation of the speaker diaphragm. Therefore, the so-called ‘acoustic extinction’ is actually a blowoff caused by the diaphragm-produced wind. This work led by Dr Caiyi Xiong reveals the essence of ‘acoustic extinction’ and has been published in Fire Safety Journal.

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Review paper on electric vehicle fires is selected as the ESI Highly cited paper

Oct 2021

The review paper of battery fire in electric vehicles was selected as ESI Highly cited paper based on the up-to-date data from the Clarivate Analytics Essential Science Indicators (ESI). High cited paper refers to the top 1% of all papers published in the same ESI subject area of the same year, which is the essential science indicator of the paper reputation and recognition. This review paper lead by Peiyi Sun was published in Fire Technology in 2020 January, while it has 66 citations so far.


Xinyan is elected to the IAWF board of director

Oct 2021

Dr Xinyan Huang is elected to be a new member of the Board of Directors by the International Association on Wildland Fire (IAWF). His official Board term will start from January 2022. Xinyan is also the only board member from Asia.  

From this year, Xinyan also serves as the associate editor for the International Journal of Wildland Fire, the official Journal of IAWF.

Many Congratulations to Dr Huang!  


International conference on structures in fire (SIF2022) will be hosted by PolyU

Sep 2021

The next International conference on structures in fire (SIF) will be organised by Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The date is 30 Nov - 2 Dec, 2022. The co-chairs of organising committee: Prof Asif Usmani and Dr Liming Jiang. We will be prepared to host SIF in PolyU and truly look forward to an international conference with many face-to-face contacts after the pandemic of COVID-19.

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Xinyan secured a research project from the SZSTI

Sep 2021

Dr Xinyan Huang has secured a 3-year research project entitled "Investigation on the mechanism and intelligent detection of lithium-ion battery fires in extreme storage and transportation environment" from the Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Commission (SZSTI). This work aims to reveal the characteristics of lithium-ion battery fires in extreme storage and transportation environments, and integrate cutting-edge technologies such as IoT and artificial intelligence with battery fire detection to facilitate fire prevention and emergency rescue capabilities for resilient cities.

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 Yuying joins in joint PhD programme with UTS

Sep 2021

Yuying Chen was successfully enrolled in the Joint PhD programme with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and awarded the UTS President's Scholarship. This program will lead to a Dual PhD Degree from PolyU and UTS. Yuying will spend her half of PhD study in UTC and co-supervised by Dr Nic Surawski to conduct research on wildland emissions on the earth scale.

Many Congratulations to Yuying!  


BSE is renamed to BEEE

Sep 2021

Our Department of Building Services Engineering (BSE) has been renamed Department of Building Environment and Energy Engineering (BEEE) from 1 September 2021, after using BSE for 40 years. BEEE engages in a wide range of research activities organized in the research themes of building energy, building environment, and building safety and resilience. BEEE's new website is at

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Xiqiang has received funding from the NSFC

Sep 2021

Dr Xiqiang Wu's project entitled "Failure mechanism and intelligent early warning of reinforced concrete slab-column connections under fire scenarios" has been awarded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) Youth Program. This project aims to make real-time early warnings for the slab-column connections under real fire scenarios, which has great practical significance in reducing the casualties caused by building fires.

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New members join the Fire Safety Lab

Sep 2021

Three new members will join the PolyU Fire Safety Lab in the coming semester.

  • Yuhan Wang received his Master’s Degree from the Department of Computer Science at Hong Kong Baptist University in 2020 and will be a research assistant on the smart firefighting project.

  • Yizhou Li got his bachelor's degree from the College of Safety Engineering at China University of Mining and Technology (2021) and will be a Mphil student at PolyU.

  • Yunzhu Qin got his bachelor’s degree from the School of Chemical Engineering at Sichuan University (2021) and will be a Mphil student at PolyU.

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SFPE Hong Kong Student Chapter receives the Gold Award for Chapter Excellence in 2021

Aug 2021

SFPE Hong Kong Student Chapter receives the Gold Award for Chapter Excellence, making it the only Student Chapter that gets this award in 2021. The award is to recognize SFPE Chapters that demonstrate excellence in contributing to the needs of their members and the Society
SFPE Hong Kong Student Chapter was found on Dec 22, 2019. It is the first student chapter in China, and the third in Asia. PolyU Ph.D. student Aatif Ali Khan is the first and founding president, and the current president is Shaorun Lin. The chapter is set to promote fire safety engineering amongst students by hosting workshops, lectures, and events targeted at university students in Hong Kong.

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Can we mitigate the battery fire by Inert gases?

Aug 2021

Alleviating thermal-runaway propagation is crucial for the safe application of high-energy lithium-ion batteries. Herein, a new fire control strategy based on inert gas dilution was proposed to mitigate fire spread within a battery module, and its efficacy was verified with the aid of electrochemical characterization. This pioneering study is cooperated with the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and has been published in the Journal of Power sources.

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Shaorun defended his PhD thesis with a unanimous vote of excellence

Aug 2021

Shaorun successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled “Fundamental Study of Near-Limit Smoldering Fire Dynamics” on 10 August 2021 with a unanimous vote of excellence. His thesis is composed of 10 journal publications in different disciplines, including Combustion and Flame, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, Science of the Total Environment, Fire Technology and Fire Safety Journal. He will continue working as Postdoc in Dr Huang’s research group with a focus on smoldering fire. 

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Xinyan receives “5 under 35” Award from SFPE

Aug 2021

5 Under 35 Award from the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) is to recognize five individuals each year who best represent the industry’s top rising leaders who are giving back to the fire protection engineering profession and the community. Dr Xinyan Huang is the first one in Asia receiving this prestigious award.

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Latest Review Paper on Smoldering Peat Wildfires

Aug 2021

Guillermo and Xinyan are invited by the new Journal Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health to write a review paper on Smoldering Wildfires in Peatlands. It is the latest review paper on peat fire over the last 10 years with the emphasis on the impact on Environmental and Health issues. The latest progress on peat fire modelling and arctic overwintering peat fire is also reviewed. 

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The underlying mechanism for acoustic extinction

July 2021

Acoustic extinction is a technology with the potential to extinguish fires with less environmental damage. So far, such technology has been successfully applied to pool fires, gas burner flames, and flying firebrands. However, the influences of sound source and its frequency are not well understood. In this work, we experimentally found that it is the motion of the speaker diaphragm, as well as the resulting wind cause extinction, rather than the sound itself. In this way, the sound with a lower frequency can push flame with larger displacement and thus promote extinction. This work led by Dr Caiyi Xiong has been published in Scientific Reports.

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The blue fire whirl in low pressure

July 2021

The fire whirl is an intensification of combustion, which is normally generated in mass fires. In this study, small-scale fire whirls were generated by square enclosures with slits inside a large low-pressure chamber. As the pressure decreases, the fire whirl becomes bluer, and the burning rate decreases linearly at a rate five times faster than the pool fire. Thus, the hazard of fire whirl drops significantly at the reduced pressure. Unlike the flame height of pool fire increasing with pressure, the flame height of fire whirl is almost insensitive to the pressure. This work led by Peiyi Sun has published in the Fire Safety Journal

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EV battery fire review paper receives 2021 Jack Bono Award

July 2021

Peiyi Sun, Roeland Bisschop, Huichang Niu, and Xinyan Huang have been recently awarded the Jack Bono Award for Engineering Communications. This award is given by The Society of Fire Protection Engineers’ Educational and Scientific Foundation to the paper that has most contributed to the advancement of professional fire protection engineering. The awarded review paper has been published on Fire Technology, which aims to encourage active research collaborations and attract future research and development on improving the overall safety of future EVs.

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Zombie fires in Arctic-boreal peatlands are accelerating global warming!

July 2021

In the Arctic and boreal (subarctic) regions, the ambient temperature has increased at a warming rate of ~0.44 °C/decade, thus peatlands are increasingly vulnerable to wildfires as climate change continues accelerating. For relatively dry peat (25% MC), the fire can survive at −35 °C in the cold boreal winter, and for very dry peat (10% MC), it can even smolder below −45 °C. The predicted total carbon loss from boreal peat fires in the 21st century is 28 Gt, which is three times the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels in 2014, representing positive feedback to global warming. This research helps evaluate the fire risks of boreal peatlands and estimate climate-induced carbon emissions from boreal peatland fires in the 21st century and is published in Science of the Total Environment.

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Newly observed blue flame co-exists with smoldering and extend the extinction limit of timber fire

July 2021

The self-extinction of timber flame is a crucial concept that supports the fire safety of high-rise timber building and its fast-growing market. Recently, a unique wood combustion mode showing a near-limit blue flame was identified as an intermediate combustion mode between the buoyancy-controlled yellow flame and the smoldering combustion, extending the extinction limits of timber fire from 4 g/m2-s to 1 g/m2-s. This unique blue flame may play an essential role in the transition between flaming and smoldering and help evaluate the fire risk of timber materials under real fire scenarios. This work is led by Shaorun and published in Fire Technology.

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New Fire Technology SI on the State-of-the-Art Fire Research in China

June 2021

Dr Xinyan Huang, Prof. Naian Liu from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and Prof. Kaiyuan Li from Wuhan Institute of Technology launched a new Special Issue on Fire Technology. This special issue is devoted to state-of-the-art fire research in China and saluting the 30th anniversary of SKLFS. Many high-quality research papers and invited review papers will be included in this SI.

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Shaorun’s new paper on peatland firebreak is selected as the cover image of IJWF

May 2021

Firefighting operations to suppress smoldering peat fires are risky owing to the extreme heat and smoke. Therefore, in practice, building a firebreak or barrier could be more effective in controlling and mitigating hidden peat fires. Our recent work found that there are two criteria for an effective peat firebreak: (I) adding water to make the peat layer sufficiently wet; and (II) ensuring that the peat layer is thinner than the quenching thickness. This work provides a scientific foundation for fighting and mitigating smoldering wildfires in the field. This work led by Shaorun is selected as the cover image of the International Journal of Wildland Fire

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Can AI Robots help Fire Engineering Design?

May 2021

The fast development of artificial intelligence (AI) started to change many engineering disciplines. Recently, PolyU Fire Lab proposed a new concept of the AI-driven smart performance-based design and applied deep-learning methods to predict the smoke evolution inside the atrium. This new approach has a great potential to reshape the fire engineering industry. This latest work led by Sue and Xiqiang is published in the Journal of Building Engineering.

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Can we forecast the tunnel in real time?

March 2021

Fire incidents in tunnels are fatal disasters causing significant casualties and economic losses. The threat of tunnel fire could be alleviated if we can forecast fire scenarios and make early warnings before emergency circumstances occur. This paper proposed an artificial intelligence model and established an extensive training database. After fine-tuning, the model can timely and accurately predict the temperature field in tunnels 1 min in advance. Based on the temperature field, critical events, such as the temperature in a tunnel is too high for human beings, can be further identified. This study led by Xiqiang demonstrates the promising prospects of AI in helping firefighting and is published on Building simulation.


Siyan receives the PhD fellowship from the University of California, Berkeley

March 2021

Siyan Wang, an undergraduate student assistant in our fire lab, was admitted to the doctoral program with full scholarship at University of California, Berkeley in the area of Energy Science & Technology with Prof. Michael Gollner. She is also awarded the Berkeley Graduate Division Block Grant Award!


Many Congratulations to Siyan!  

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Xinyan gave a webinar in SFPE Greater London Student Chapter

March 2021

Dr Xinyan Huang was invited by SFPE Greater London Student Chapter to share his latest research on the risk and hazards of dripping fires and a new theory for dripping ignition process. The webinar also covers the latest research by Peiyi and Caiyi.

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Why the flame can anchor on a falling drip?

March 2021

The dripping of molten thermoplastics is a widely observed fire phenomenon. The large drips can carry a blue chain flame when falling to the ground and ignite other combustible materials. However, the mechanism by which the flame can stay stably on a falling drip is still unknown. Due to the fast motion and tiny size of drip, experiment is hard to help seek insights. Thus, this paper proposed a DNS model to easily simulate the entire dripping process, including the initial ignition and the subsequent transition to a wake flame, and then, to flame shedding and the final extinction. This work helps reveal the flame dynamics during the dripping and has been published in Flow, Turbulence and Combustion.

Zilong won Best Paper Award from Conference on Thermal Safety Science & Technology

Feb 2021

This paper is a collaborative work between PolyU and Sichuan Fire Research Institute. Zilong applied the artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to predict the spilled flame from the compartment, based on the training of large-scale facade fire experiment data.


Is façade design a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’?

Feb 2021

Recent fire experiments were conducted at PolyU to re-assess the fire hazard of common ACPs under well-controlled external irradiation. It was found that these materials can still be ignited and burn when exposed to a fire, after the front aluminium layer peeled off. Due to the complexity, the fire hazard associated with the façade system is not only controlled by the core material but also affected by the structural failures at the system level. Under lower irradiation, even without ignition, the long-term heating can still cause severe deformation to lower fire performance. This work is published in Fire Technology.


SFPE HK student chapter new leaders

Feb 2021

We are happy to announce a new team of officier for SFPE HK Student Chapter: 

Shaorun Lin (president)

Zhuojun Nan (vice president)

Siyan Wang (secretary)

Xiaoning Zhang (treasurer)

We would also like to thank the first team of officers for their contributions in the past year.

Xinyan's paper receives the Ricardo Award from the Institute of Physics (IOP)

Feb 2021

X. Huang, G. Rein (2017) Downward Spread of Smoldering Peat Fire: the Role of Moisture, Density and Oxygen Supply, International Journal of Wildland Fire, 26, 907-918. 

Ricardo Best Paper Award is for (1) significant technological advance, and (2) contribution to the advancement of understanding at a fundamental level

Sir Harry Ralph Ricardo (1885 – 1974) was one of the foremost engine designers and researchers in the early years of the development of the internal combustion engine.

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Xinyan is ranked World’s Top 2% Scientists

Jan 2021

Dr Xinyan Huang has been listed among the top 2% scientists in a global list released by the prestigious Stanford University. The ranking identifies the top scholars in their own areas of specialty and whose publications are most frequently cited by other authors around the globe. 

The ranking is based on the publicly available database provides standardized information on citations, h-index, co-authorship adjusted hm-index, citations to papers in different authorship positions and a composite indicator. 

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