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The Effect of Microgravity on Flame Spread over a Thin Fuel

01 Dec 1987-
TL;DR: In this article, a flame spreading over a thermally thin cellulose fuel was studied in a quiescent microgravity environment, and two different extinction limits were found in microgravity for the two thicknesses of fuel.
Abstract: A flame spreading over a thermally thin cellulose fuel was studied in a quiescent microgravity environment. Flame spread over two different fuel thicknesses was studied in ambient oxygen-nitrogen environments from the limiting oxygen concentration to 100 percent oxygen at 1 atm pressure. Comparative normal-gravity tests were also conducted. Gravity was found to play an important role in the mechanism of flame spread. In lower oxygen environments, the buoyant flow induced in normal gravity was found to accelerate the flame spread rate as compared to the microgravity flame spread rates. It was also found to stabilize the flame in oxidizer environments, where microgravity flames in a quiescent environment extinguish. In oxygen-rich environments, however, it was determined that gravity does not play an important role in the flame spread mechanism. Fuel thickness influences the flame spread rate in both normal gravity and microgravity. The flame spread rate varies inversely with fuel thickness in both normal gravity and in an oxygen-rich microgravity environment. In lower oxygen microgravity environments, however, the inverse relationship breaks down because finite-rate kinetics and heat losses become important. Two different extinction limits were found in microgravity for the two thicknesses of fuel. This is in contrast to the normal-gravity extinction limit, which was found to be independent of fuel thickness. In microgravity the flame is quenched because of excessive thermal losses, whereas in normal gravity the flame is extinguished by blowoff.