Curriculum vitae

Dr. Vytenis Babrauskas


Dr. Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas has his Bachelor's degree (1968) from Swarthmore College in Physics. His two graduate degrees are from the University of California, Berkeley: an M.S. degree in Structural Engineering (1972) and a Ph.D. degree in Fire Protection Engineering (1976). He was the first person ever to be awarded a Ph.D. degree in Fire Protection Engineering.


His early professional experience has included working as a civil engineer designing roads and bridges and as a laboratory instructor in physics. Most of his career has been devoted to fire protection engineering research. For over 16 years Dr. Babrauskas conducted research in this area at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, formerly known as National Bureau of Standards. During his years at NIST he has managed research groups in the areas of flammability test development, upholstered furniture flammability, and fire toxicity. In 1993 he formed Fire Science and Technology Inc., a firm specializing in fire safety R&D and in consultancy on various aspects of fires and fire tests.

Dr. Babrauskas is a ranking international authority on the measurement of heat release from fires. In 1982 he developed the Furniture Calorimeter, which has become the medium-scale test method specified in NORDTEST and Underwriters Laboratories standards. More recently, he has been the developer of the primary method currently being used on a world-wide basis for bench-scale measurement of heat release rates. For the development of this instrument, the Cone Calorimeter he was awarded the Department of Commerce Bronze medal in 1986. His invention was also recognized in his receiving the R&D 100 Award in 1988. The Cone Calorimeter is today considered the most important bench-scale tool for determining 'how fast things burn.' It is used in over 200 laboratories in over 30 countries. In other test method development work, Dr. Babrauskas headed the team which completed the development of a new test method for toxic potency, the first such to be based on effective full- scale validation with room fires. The dominant role of carbon monoxide in fire gas toxicity can now be more easily studied with another of Dr. Babrauskas' instruments, the phi-meter. During 1993-94, Dr. Babrauskas acted as technical consultant to the largest-ever European furniture flammability research program, conducted under the auspices of the European Commission.

Since his founding of FSTI, Dr. Babrauskas has been a technical consultant to three major, multi-national fire safety research projects organized by the European Commission: CBUF, TOXFIRE, and FIPEC. CBUF (Combustion Behaviour of Upholstered Furniture) focused on characterizing furniture fire hazards and developing fire models and fire test methods for this category of product. TOXFIRE focused on developing firefighting guidance for fires in chemical and pesticide warehouses, with an emphasis on toxic products of combustion and pollution of air and water. FIPEC (Fire Performance of Electric Cables) was organized to develop fire testing and fire modeling techniques for proper assessment of electric cable flammability. In addition, under the auspices of his own firm, Dr. Babrauskas organized a series of full-scale and bench-scale fire tests on diverse construction products, where the focus was assessing various strategies for describing the fire toxicity aspects of products.

Specialty areas

Dr. Babrauskas has experience in numerous aspects of fire safety science and fire protection engineering. These include:
  • development of fire safety engineering methods
  • fire resistance
  • fire testing
  • electric fires
  • furniture flammability
  • plastics flammability
  • fire toxicity
  • fire corrosivity
  • ignitability
  • self-heating and spontaneous combustion
  • failure analysis
  • fire science applications to fire and explosion investigation
  • ignition of fires from electric faults and failures
  • flame spread
  • explosions
  • heat release rate
  • computer fire modeling
  • pool fires
  • smoke production
  • design and development of fire test apparatuses and instrumentation
  • computer methods for handling of fire test data
  • heat transfer
  • analytical chemistry methods for gas analysis
  • infrared spectroscopy
  • full-scale engineering performance testing
  • performance-based building codes
  • products liability


Dr. Babrauskas has given hundreds of lectures and presentations. He has taught graduate-level engineering courses at the University of British Columbia and at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In recent years, he has been regularly teaching classes to fire investigators on fire science principles, as applied to origin-and-cause investigation of fires. He developed the unique "Electrical Fires 102" course, which is the only advanced course on investigation of electrical fires focusing on the fundamental underlying principles.


Dr. Babrauskas has published over 250 papers and reports in the field of fire protection engineering. His textbook Heat Release in Fires is the first and only book on this important subject. He authored the first monograph devoted to the topic of upholstered furniture flammability while at NIST; in 1995 he was a primary technical consultant for the CBUF monograph on the same topic. He also authored the first comprehensive state-of-the-art review of flammability test methods for wires and cables. His Ph.D. dissertation of Fire Endurance in Buildings is still considered as one of the pivotal references in its field. Dr. Babrauskas has contributed chapters to both the NFPA and the SFPE Handbooks. In 2003 he published a massive Ignition Handbook, which is the first handbook ever published on this topic. He is also the editor of Fire Science Applications to Fire Investigations; this CD-ROM book (first edition 2003, second edition 2007) is the only current, extensive compilation of research papers on fire investigation and forensic aspects of fire science. In 2008, he was editor for the reference book on the Hazards of Combustion Products.


Dr. Babrauskas served for 20 years as the North American editor of the Fire Safety Journal and he serves on the editorial boards of Fire and Materials, Journal of Fire Sciences and Journal of Civil Engineering and Management.

Fire modeling

Dr. Babrauskas was the first U.S. scientist to publish a computer fire model (COMPF, issued in 1975). Since then, he evolved it into the COMPF2 computer program for the prediction of post-flashover room fires. This program was the first to include a realistic representation of the burning of liquid pool fires in rooms. He also contributed material to the major NIST fire model HAZARD I. During 1993-1994, he was technical consultant for the major European research program on upholstered furniture flammability, CBUF. There, he played a pivotal role in developing the three different furniture fire models which were produced. He was the main author of the consortium developing the FDMS specification for the standardized exchange of fire test data. This work was carried on by NIST, who are now evolving version 2.0 of FDMS.

Societies and standards bodies

Dr. Babrauskas was one of the founding organizers of the International Heat Release Association, and serves on its Council. He has worked on standardization issues for ASTM since 1973 and served for 6 years as Chairman of Subcommittee E-5.21 on Smoke and Combustion Products. He holds the grade of Fellow in the Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

In the international standards area, he is a U.S. Assigned Expert to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). He is a member of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, the Combustion Institute, International Association of Arson Investigators, National Fire Protection Association, International Code Council, and the International Association for Fire Safety Science. The Cone Calorimeter standards issued by ASTM, NFPA, and ISO have been based on his works.

Professional awards

Dr. Babrauskas has been recognized for his professional work by the following awards:
  • Howard W. Emmons Lectureship, IAFSS, 2008 (the Society's highest award)
  • Arthur B. Guise Medal, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, 2004 (the Society's highest award)
  • Vilhelm Sjölin Award, Forum for International Cooperation on Fire Research, 2002
  • Jack Bono Engineering Communications Award, SFPE, 1997
  • Research Award for Foreign Specialists (Building Research Institute, Japan), 1997
  • The S. H. Ingberg Award, ASTM, 1995.
  • The Edward Bennett Rosa Award (NIST), 1992
  • ASTM Award of Recognition, 1991
  • Building and Fire Research Laboratory Communicator Award (NIST), 1990
  • Interflam Trophy Award (Interflam Conferences), 1990
  • ASTM Award of Appreciation, 1989
  • Research Award for Foreign Specialists (Building Research Institute, Japan), 1988
  • R&D 100 Award, for developing the Cone Calorimeter, 1988
  • Department of Commerce Bronze Medal, 1986

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