As Demand for Fire-Safety Experts Grows, so Does Case Western Reserve Engineering Program

The world needs fire-safety experts. New technologies and consumer products create an ever-growing demand for engineers specially trained to prevent fires and electrical hazards.

The Case Western Reserve University Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is meeting this challenge. 

The department launched the Fire Science and Engineering graduate degree program in 2015, and now is expanding the program to train graduates in the development and application of fire-safety standards.

Scientific standards are the backbone of fire-prevention engineering. The unique training curriculum will prepare graduates for the needs of industry, government agencies, insurance companies and safety and standards organizations.

Ya-Ting T. Liao, assistant professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and leader of the Computational Fire Dynamics Lab, created the standards training module with support from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a world leader in product safety standards, testing and certification.

UL has been instrumental developing the Fire Science and Engineering graduate degree program at Case Western Reserve.

“It’s important to embed standards training in the fire sciences curriculum to prepare graduating students for industry,” said Dr. Liao. “Knowledge of standards is an essential aspect of materials research, product development, manufacturing, testing and commercialization.”

The standards training will allow students to understand how existing safety standards impact the product development cycle. This is essential in the development of innovative products that are safe, consistent and have the best chance of making it to market. In many cases, commerce and trade depend on products that undergo strict testing and evaluation for safety, Dr. Liao said.

Case Western Reserve’s fire sciences program conducts safety research and aims to share its knowledge with industry, as well as non-profit institutions and government agencies.

The university has a long-time partnership with NASA, for instance, that has included substantial research in fire protection engineering, suppression and detection for materials in space. In 2016, Case Western Reserve collaborated with NASA in the largest fire-safety experiment ever conducted in space. Research such as this is key to developing fire-safety protocols or developing new rules or new materials for space.

Dr. Liao is currently involved with research looking at how solar panels affect flammability of roof materials.

“How do solar panels affect roof fires, how do they change fire behavior and how do we remedy that? The results of our research may be used to guide standards,” Dr. Liao said.

The university also has partnerships the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

With UL, Case Western Reserve created the Fire Science and Engineering program with a multi-disciplinary approach like none other. The program is a collaboration of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering.

“Our relationship with Case started in 2009 because we realized institutions needed to produce more fire experts,” said J. Thomas Chapin, vice president of research for UL and an adjunct professor at Case.

“There was a lack of knowledgeable and qualified fire protection engineers for industry, and for agencies tasked with creating and enforcing standards and codes.”

The standards training curriculum will consist of lectures, educational videos, projects, meeting with experts and mentorship from practicing standards engineers.

Students will learn about the types of standards, how standards are developed and even create hypothetical fire-safety standards for different scenarios, such as fabrics for racecar drivers or containers for lithium batteries. They will also design products and be asked to find relevant standards to consider during the product development process.

“This experience will teach students about factors to consider when developing a standard and allow students to appreciate the role of standards in product development and better understand the rationale behind standards in the first place,” Dr. Liao said.

UL experts will talk with students about project results, and the challenges in developing and refining standards.

With the new standards training, Case Western Reserve is creating a national model that may be emulated by other institutions.



February 22th, 2019

Computational Fire Dynamics Laboratory

The Computational Fire Dynamics Lab at Case Western Reserve University, is led by Dr. Ya-Ting Tseng Liao. The lab mission is threefold:

  • To continue to improve the accuracy and realism of the chemistry and physics underlying computational models of combustion, fire, and fire behavior.
  • To design experiments that provide data that can help clarify, prove, or suggest model parameters. Working closely with our collaborators, as a team we can perform these experiments and further refine our models.
  • To use computational models of fire to predict fire behavior, to characterize safety risks in specific situations (fuel arrangements, fuel types, geometries, gravity levels, etc.), and to develop safer structures that reduce the chance that fires will start, or, that limit the damage that a fire would cause.

Our interest is in basic fire science, but also in better understanding fire behavior in specific situations such as in aircraft or spacecraft, in discrete fuels, or in situations with unique chemistry, physics, or geometrical considerations, such as solar panel fires or lithium-ion battery fires.

Our lab is part of the Fire Group at Case Western Reserve University, which consists of three labs in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department (led by Prof. Liao, Prof. Takahashi, and Prof. T’ien) and another three labs in the Macromolecular Science and Engineering department (led by Prof. Ishida, Prof. Shiraldi, and Prof. Wnek). Together, these groups provide comprehensive and synergistic capability in fire modeling, experimentation, and evaluation of material flammability.


Course Offered in Fall 2016: EMAE/EMAC 463 Fire Dynamics

Class Time & Location: TuTh 12:45PM – 2:00PM, Glennan 400

Instructor: Professor Ya-Ting Liao; yating.liao@case.edu; (216) 368-0048

Office Hours: TBD

Course Description: This course introduces the burning behavior of materials and the underlying thermo-fluid dynamics. Topics include: pre-mixed flames, diffusion flames, steady burning of condensed fuels, ignition, extinction, flame spread over surfaces, fire plume, compartment fire, flashover, and smoke movement. A Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation code, Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS) will also be introduced in the class.

Textbooks: Required: J. G. Quintiere: Fundamentals of fire phenomena, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2006. Recommended: D. Drysdale: An introduction to fire dynamics, 3rd Ed., John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2011.

Prerequisite: Fundamentals of Thermal Fluids (e.g. EMAE325).

Course Schedule:
Course Overview (0.5 week)
Thermochemistry (2 weeks)
Premixed Flame (2.5 weeks)
Ignition of Liquids and Solids (2.5 weeks)
Flame Spread on Surfaces (1.5 weeks)
Introduction of FDS (1 week)
Burning Rate (2 weeks)
Fire Plume (1 week)
Compartment Fire (1 week)


Course Syllabus
Course Schedule



Posted on July 25th, 2016
Updated on August 30th, 2016