Skip to comments.COLD BALLS OF FLAME light up International Space Station (FLEX Experiment--Video)
Posted on 06/19/2013 8:57:30 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
At first glance, lighting a fire on the International Space Station (ISS) seems like a good way to earn a Darwin Award and the opprobrium of all humanity. Yet boffins have been doing it for some time in an effort to learn more about how flames behave.
Interestingly, is the answer from NASA, which today offered a look at some ISS fire experiments that have found fires lit in microgravity don't form the familiar forked tongues we see on earth, but instead dimly-glowing spheres that aren't nearly as hot to the touch as earthly flames.
These cool fires can also burn fuel without producing visible flames. The chemical reactions involved are completely different, Dr Forman A Williams, a professor of physics at UC San Diego and one of the boffins involved in the FLEX experiment that studies flames on the ISS, told NASA. Normal flames produce soot, CO2 and water. Cool flames produce carbon monoxide and formaldehyde."
It's possible to figure this stuff out because, the FLEX project says In the absence of gravity, small droplets of fuel burn 'one-dimensionally', which allows the science team to easily measure and understand important features of the burning fuel that would otherwise be impossible to obtain on the ground.
This particular type of flame configuration allows measurement and observation of very complex interactions in a spherically one-dimensional system, providing insights into the behavior of combustion phenomena that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain in multi-dimensional systems that are typically found in most 1-g fires.
The results described above have boffins excited that if we make terrestrial fires behave like fires in space, it could make for more efficient internal combustion engines. Gaining knowledge to improve spacecraft safety is another hoped-for outcome.
The rather saccharine video below offers more detail on the experiment and includes footage of the flames.
The FLEX project will continue into 2014, with experiments to trial different fuel mixes planned. ®
Cool...I mean, er...hot.
Its not really new knowledge. We learned that flame doesn’t work so well without convection back in the skylab days.
I didn’t look at the URL you posted this from. When I got to the word “boffins”, I stopped reading and checked...
Yep. Sure enough. The Register.
The website voted Most Likely to Abuse the Word “boffin”.
I do that all the time when my anti-gravity machine is up and running.
“Cool Balls of Flame”...
nah, Jerry Lee got it right
Absent of gravity, heated gas don’t rise and quickly expose new fuel to more oxygen.
If you ever did the "spinning wheel" ride at an amusement park, the one where you are on the inner circumference of the wheel and the wheel becomes perpendicular to the ground:
At the top, for a short moment, you experience close to 0 G (and close to 2 G at the bottom). So if you had the cylinders of the engine arranged in a circle, with the circle spinning at the right speed, and ignition happening at the top of the spin, you could have the instant of ignition happen at close to zero G.
You stole the plans to my anti-gravity machine! I’ll sue.