Analysis of thermally induced forces in steel columns subjected to fire
The effects that thermally induced forces and deformations have on the performance and safety of steel columns subjected to fire are not well understood and are not clearly treated in building codes and standards. This thesis investigates the behavior of steel columns subjected to fire, with an emphasis on studying the significance of thermally induced forces and deformations. The approach used in this research is to conduct a series of analyses of steel columns using the finite element computer program ABAQUS. Columns are modeled in ABAQUS using beam elements that include nonlinear geometry, nonlinear temperature dependent material properties, and initial geometric imperfections. Using the ABAQUS model, a series of analyses are conducted on the behavior of columns under axial compression for temperatures varying from room temperature up to 2400° F. A series of individual columns are analyzed with and without restraint to thermal expansion. A column that is part of a truss is also analyzed to study a simple case of a flexible restraint to thermal expansion. Finally, the behavior of columns that are part of multi-story steel moment frames are investigated. All of the analyses conducted in this research indicate that forces generated by restraint to thermal expansion can have a very large impact on the performance of a steel column in fire. When evaluating the safety of a column in a fire, it is important to recognize that the total axial force in the column is the sum of the force generated by external gravity load on the frame and the force generated by restraint to thermal expansion. The force generated by restrained thermal expansion can be very large, and neglecting this force can lead to unsafe designs.