Photo: DTU Civil Engineering

Horizontal ventilation can increase fire safety in tunnels

Tuesday 07 Jun 16


Anne Simone Dederichs
Associate professor
DTU Civil Engineering
+4531 65 61 63

What is the ITA COSUF Award?

ITA COSUF Award is awarded annually to a young researcher or professional under 35 years. The award consists of a certificate and a cash prize of 1,000 euros. The prize is awarded at a ceremony in Helsinki October 26, 2016, when Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva is invited to present his work in fire safety and smoke formation in tunnels.
A Research Assistant at DTU Civil Engineering has won an international award for his work with developing a horizontal ventilation system for tunnels. The purpose is to control the smoke formation and thereby creating a better control of the fire.

Every year, the international association for research and safety work in underground facilities, International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association's Committee on Operational Safety of Underground Facilities (ITA COSUF), hands out the ITA COSUF Award. The award goes to a young researcher or professional who has done distinguished work in the field of safety in underground facilities.

In 2016, the price goes to the DTU employee Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva, who works as a research assistant at DTU Civil Engineering.

Good response from experts and industry

In 2014, Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva handed in his thesis about fire safety and smoke formation in tunnels. The project is part of a series of projects to smoke in small scale testing led by Associate Professor Anne Dederichs from DTU Civil Engineering.

In his thesis, Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva developed a horizontal ventilation system for tunnels that can help manage the smoke during a fire by forcing it in one direction.

"His results are very relevant in these times when we are in the process of building tunnels in many countries. The understanding that Ulises' project has given, is essential when you want to control smoke in tunnels and avoid casualties in any tunnel fire. Ulises has received high praise for the results from other experts in the field, "says Anne Dederichs.

The thesis led to presentations at several conferences. Earlier this year, Associate Professor at DTU Civil Engineering Grunde Jomaas nominated Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva for the ITA COSUF Award based on one of these presentations.

"Ulises got excellent feedback on a presentation for a conference, and when several of the industry representatives pointed the existence of the price out to me, I chose to nominate him. I thought he was a very competitive candidate for the prize, and it turned out to be the case, "says Grunde Jomaas.

Great need for better fire safety in European tunnels

Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva is very happy to receive the ITA COSUF Award. At present, he works with in-situ burning (incineration on the site) of crude oil on water. He makes regular experiment in DTU Civil Engineering’s fire laboratory and therefore deals with a somewhat different approach to fire safety than in his Master’s thesis.

If it was up to him, he would very much like to do more research on fire safety in tunnels. Like Anne Dederichs, he points out the great need for further research in this area.

"Right now there are many tunnel projects in progress in Europe. For example the world's longest railway tunnel just opened in Switzerland. Another exciting future project is a planned tunnel between Helsinki in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia. There is a great need for more research in the field of fire safety in tunnels because it can be really catastrophic if the smoke gets out of control in tunnels and other underground facilities, "says Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva.

Tests with ventilation control

The two images below show the difference between the smoke formation without and with (right) the ventilation control that Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva has worked on.

Smoke distribution without ventilation control
Smoke distribution with ventilation control 
Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva's tests indicate that only half of the tunnel is affected by smoke when the horizontal ventilation control is enabled.