Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Chemical Engineering

Research Sponsor

George Chase

First Reader

Marit Meyer

Second Reader

Ed Evans


The purpose of this project was to research characteristics of a Lithium-ion battery fire to determine if trends exist in measured fire characteristics that can help predict different fire scenarios. These experiments will ultimately aid in developing an alarm threshold for a spacecraft smoke detector, specifically for Orion, a new, multi-purpose crew vehicle under development by NASA. Orion is the next-generation of spacecraft designed to replace the space shuttle and will play an important role in NASA’s journey to Mars.

In the experiments performed, Lithium-ion batteries were placed in a test chamber and ignited while smoke concentration was measured, simulating a worst-case fire scenario. Meaningful conclusions about combustion in a confined volume were drawn by observing fires through video footage. It was concluded that physical characteristics of the fire corresponded to spikes in chamber pressure. This is of interest to NASA’s fire detection systems; if the pressure inside a spacecraft rises in the event of a fire, the crew may have to open a pressure relief valve, which can be extremely dangerous and is considered a last-resort measure. The work outlined in this report paves the way for future efforts to develop a smoke alarm threshold for the Orion capsule.