Fenner Seminar - Smouldering Wildfires in Peatlands: Challenges from the Earth’s Largest Fire

Smouldering fires in peatlands are the largest combustion and longest-lasting fire phenomena on Earth. These mega-scale peat fires can irreversibly destroy ecosystems, produce regional haze episodes, and contribute to about 10% of annual global carbon emissions. Peat fires are the most persistent fire on Earth that can survive in heavy rains and cold arctic conditions, yet their dynamics are still poorly understood.

Studying the combustion fundamentals behind smouldering wildfires not only guides us to reduce the natural fire hazards, but also brings scientific tools to geophysics, ecology, and biology to understand the evolution of Earth and biota. This talk will share how to conduct small-scale lab experiments to understand Earth’s largest fire phenomena and reveal the fire threshold of our planet over the last 400 million years.

About the speaker

Dr Xinyan Huang is an assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He received his PhD from Imperial College London. Before moving to HK, Dr Huang was a Postdoc at UC Berkeley, where he conducted research with NASA on Spacecraft Fire Safety.

Dr Huang has co-authored over 100 journal papers on combustion and fire research. He served as an Associate Editor of International Journal of Wildland Fire and Fire Technology, an editorial member of Fire Safety Journal, a board member of International Association of Wildland Fire, and a committee member for HK Fire Safety Code.

He is also a winner of the Bernard Lewis Fellowship and Sugden Best Paper Award from the Combustion Institute, IAFSS Early Career Award, Ricardo Award from the Institute of Physics, Fire Engineering Grand Award from HK Institute of Engineers, and “5 under 35” Award from Society of Fire Protection Engineers.