Numerical Studies on Thermally-Induced Air Flow in Sloping Tunnels with Experimental Scale Modelling Justifications

Wan Ki Chow, Y. Gao, J. F. Zou, Q. K. Liu, C. L. Chow, L. Miao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Study of smoke movement or air flow due to fire in sloping tunnels is important in designing smoke control systems. In contrast to a horizontal tunnel, there is an acceleration along the longitudinal axis due to smoke buoyancy. This phenomenon together with thermal radiation would lead to a complicated heat transfer mechanism of the ceiling jet in sloping tunnels. In the present work, thermally induced air flow arising from fire in sloping tunnels was studied via numerical simulations using the Computational Fluid Dynamics code FLUENT. Prior to the application of FLUENT in simulating the air flow under different conditions, scale model experiments were carried out and the results were compared with simulation results, to establish the reliability of FLUENT in simulating fires in sloping tunnels. For this purpose, a tunnel section model of length 3 m, width 0.8 m and height 1 m was constructed, with a 1.5 kW electrical heating source to model fire. Hot air movement pattern driven by the electric heater was studied with the tunnel inclined at 0°, 10°, 20° and 30° to the horizontal. Four cases of the same configuration as the scale tunnel experiments were simulated using FLUENT, with predicted results agreeing well with experimental results. Having established the suitability of FLUENT in simulating air flow due to fire in sloping tunnels, numerical simulations were carried out to study air flow in sloping tunnels with different scenarios, that is, for tunnels with different gradients and with fire located at different positions in the tunnel. Macroscopic number on heat transfer, including the Rayleigh number Ra, the average and local Nusselt number Nu ave for sloping tunnels were also studied from the measured results. The correlation between Nu ave and Ra, which shows the effect of hydrodynamic properties on relative dominance of heat transfer in tunnel fire, was also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-892
Number of pages26
JournalFire Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Average Nusselt number
  • Fire safety provision
  • Simulation
  • Sloping tunnel
  • Thermally-induced convection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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