Pyrometric Laboratory

Pyrometric lab

Lab head: Dr Maryam Ghodrat

Leading by Dr Maryam Ghodrat, Pyrometric lab is UNSW Canberra’s’ fire testing laboratory offering state of the art facilities and expertise to evaluate the fire performance of materials, products and systems under direct and indirect flame and radiative heat fluxes. 

The Pyrometric Lab is currently being used to investigate various fire phenomena such as ignition, heat release rate, and compartment fire based on actual testing. Multiple small- and intermediate-scale experimental apparatus are housed in this lab.

Latest research activities include, but not limited to 1) performance of fire retardants and suppression agents, 2) suppression of cotton seed fires, and 3) heat release rate (HRR) measurements of various exterior wall and flooring components and 4) Crack initiation mechanism of various tempered glass façades exposed to fire with different frame insulation arrangements.

Other testing-based research activities are also available in this lab.

The Pyrometric lab at School of Engineering and Technology, UNSW Canberra also provides the "Higher Degree Research students" with hands-on knowledge of Fire Dynamics and behavior of materials under elevated temperature.

About Pyrometric Lab:

“Pyrometric Lab” was established by Dr Maryam Ghodrat at School of Engineering and Technology, UNSW Canberra in 2021. Dr Ghodrats' team uses laboratory-scale experiments to unravel the fundamental behavior of materials exposed to direct and indirect flame as well as radiative heat fluxes. 

Using state of the art dedicated facility, Dr Ghodrat and her team have been able to measure mass loss rate, smoke production rates, and CO/CO2 production rates of flame-retardant materials for various applications including maritime and naval applications, flame-resistant clothing such as firefighters’ protective clothing, and flame-retardancy of nanocomposites.

The Lab is equipped with a modular subsonic combustion wind tunnel for convective heat flow visualization of propagating flame under variable forced flow. 


We are committed to developing cutting-edge sustainable technologies and solutions that safeguard Australia's critical infrastructures and assets from fire.

Fire Safety Engineering involves the application of scientific and engineering principles rooted in a comprehensive understanding of fire's effects and the measures necessary to safeguard people, property, and the environment.

A fundamental method for evaluating fire safety is through fire resistance testing, which requires the resources of a highly equipped fire testing laboratory. Within the realm of fire safety engineering, the domain of building fire safety holds significant importance and is rapidly evolving.

With ongoing advancements in building design, construction techniques, and the introduction of innovative materials, the meticulous application of fire safety principles becomes increasingly imperative.

Most notably, there is a substantial demand for conducting applicable fire resistance tests on new construction materials and industrial products to ensure compliance with local and/or national, as well as international building codes. This is where Pyrometric Lab excels, offering a range of essential research projects and services, including:

  1. The measurement of flame propagation away from the source of ignition across the material or assembly surface, assessing the potential for flame spreading during a fire incident.
  2. Engineering consultancy services that encompass mandatory fire resistance testing and computer modeling.
  3. The development of testing protocols for evaluating the fire resistance of non-standardized products.
  4. Expert technical guidance on materials' compliance with regulatory requirements.
  5. Conformity assessment services to demonstrate adherence to national and international codes and standards applicable to fire safety applications.


Current Research Projects:

  • Ignition of exterior building details in bushfire 
  • Smouldering combustion in loose-fill fiber thermal insulation
  • Experimental measurement of the tendency of wooden openings to smouldering ignition by embers
  • Self-sustaining smouldering destruction of wooden faces
  • Experimental Investigation of the factors affecting the performance of firefighters' protective clothing.
  • Experimental study on smouldering of soft furnishings component materials at multiple scales
  • Ignition and charring of PVC-Based Electric Cables
  • New approach for evaluating non-inflammable Fabrics.
  • Flow visualization of flammability and combustion characteristics of live and dead Australian grasslands fuel 


Available Fire Testing Services

From construction materials and products to textiles and furniture, testing for fire resistance, flammability, and flame spread is often required before these products can be accepted for public use. 

With our ability to conduct a range of tests, our researchers can offer consultancy services to industry clients in the field of structural fire engineering. 

The following is a list of some of the main services that can be offered by Pyrometric Lab:

  • Evaluation of fire resistance of construction materials, products, or assemblies.
  • Measure the propagation of a flame away from the source of ignition across the surface of a material or assembly and evaluate the potential for spreading flames. 
  • Development of testing protocols to assess the fire resistance of non-standardized products.
  • Technical advice on the compliance of materials with regulatory requirements


Research Capabilities:

  • Fire Resistance
  • Flame Spread
  • Heat Release
  • Heat Transfer
  • Ignitability
  • Reaction to Fire


Relevant Industry sector

  • Apparel
  • Aviation
  • Cables
  • Construction
  • Fire Barriers
  • Marine
  • Motor Vehicle
  • Plastics
  • Defence
  • Textiles
  • Toys
  • Thermal Properties
  • Toxicity

Project team

Dr Maryam Ghodrat
UNSW Canberra

Project collaborators: External

Professor Albert Simeoni
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Associate Professor Huang Xinyan
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Dr Alex Filkov
The University of Melbourne

Key contact

UNSW Canberra


New 'fire lab' to help researchers develop better flame-resistant products:

UNSW Canberra’s Pyrometric Lab is the first of its kind in Australia and will allow researchers to study how different materials burn.

Published on the 04 October 2023 by Elliot Williams

After entering UNSW Canberra's mechanical engineering workshop and walking past the benches covered in lawnmower engines, you'll find yourself at the entrance to the university's brand new 'fire lab'.

The Pyrometric Laboratory (to give it its proper name) is the first of its kind in Australia. It’s chock full of brand new, state-of-the-art equipment that will allow researchers and students to set fire to all manner of materials - safely of course.

By observing these objects burn and measuring how they respond to fire, researchers hope to eventually develop a range of materials that are more flame resistant. This includes eco-friendly building materials and more protective uniforms for firefighters.

The lab’s lead researcher and senior lecturer in engineering, Maryam Ghodrat, said the lab’s main focus is to help save homes, businesses and, most importantly, lives from fire.

“We’re expecting to see bigger and more destructive bushfires as we continue to feel the effects of climate change,” Dr Ghodrat said.

“That means more homes and businesses will be impacted by fire and we want to make them as safe and resistant to fire as possible.
“By testing different materials in the Pyrometric Lab we can see how they respond to fire and which are the safest. Eventually, we hope this research will lead to the development of new materials that are more flame resistant than anything currently available.

“This research can inform Australian building standards so that homes built in bushfire prone areas are as protected as they possibly can be.”

But the lab won’t only focus on building materials.

Engineering honours students, Jonathan Lu and ADFA Navy Sub Lieutenant (SBLT) Matthew Hordern, are currently undertaking two research projects in the lab that could have far-reaching benefits for firefighters and the automotive industry.

UNSW Canberra students Jonathan Lu and Matthew Hordern in the Pyrometric Lab.
UNSW Canberra honours students Jonathan Lu and Matthew Hordern are among the first people to conduct experiments in the Pyrometric Lab. Image: UNSW Canberra
Jonathan’s research involves him burning a selection of fabrics from firefighter uniforms in the ‘burner box’; one of the new pieces of equipment that is the size of a large oven and can expose materials to direct flame.

He is testing fabric from a 2013 NSW Rural Fire Service jacket and also a current Fire and Rescue uniform, one that would be used in metropolitan firefighting.

“I’m observing how the different materials respond to direct flame, and I’m interested to see how that might have changed in the years between when these uniforms were manufactured,” Jonathan said.

“If we can get a better understanding of how quickly the fabric ignites and how fast the flame spreads, it will hopefully lead to being able to produce better, more fire-resistant uniforms.

“Firefighters go into extremely dangerous situations, so if we can do something to help keep them safer and potentially save lives then that’s an awesome achievement.”
Concurrently, SBLT Hordern is setting fire to different plastic car parts he salvages from wrecking yards around Canberra. He’s looking at an entry-level car (Honda Jazz), a mid-level (Ford Focus) and a high-end car (Range Rover).

“I’m taking plastic bits from inside the car, such as centre consoles, dashboards and ‘pleather’ seats, anything that might be in the immediate vicinity of people inside a car in an accident,” SBLT Hordern said.

“If a car catches fire in an accident, that’s obviously really dangerous considering the fuel and other chemicals. But I’m interested in what happens if the plastics catch fire, and what chemicals they emit when they burn that people could be exposed to.”

Jonathan Lu sets up an experiment in the burner box.
Jonathan Lu sets up an experiment in the burner box where a piece of firefighter clothing will be burned. Image: UNSW Canberra
In addition to the ‘burner box’, the lab is also stocked with a smouldering test device, an oxygen index analyser and a structural cohesion tester. It is the only lab in Australia to have all of this equipment in one location.

Jacob Ross, the laboratory technician overseeing the lab, said it had been a challenge to get up to speed with the new equipment.

“We acquired the equipment over the past 18 months and commissioning the different machines was a challenge that required a lot of research,” Mr Ross said.

“We had to ensure we met the specific requirements of each machine so we can have confidence in the results they produce. And all the relevant safety measures had to be put in place before the students and researchers could work with them.

“It’s been a great experience to work with such high-end equipment and support the important research that will be undertaken in this lab.”

Read more about the equipment in the Pyrometric Laboratory here: