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Effects of Ignition and Wind on the Transition to Flame Spread in a Microgravity Environment.

pdf icon Effects of Ignition and Wind on the Transition to Flame Spread in a Microgravity Environment. (976 K)
McGrattan, K. B.; Kashiwagi, T.; Baum, H. R.; Olson, S. L.

Combustion and Flame, Vol. 106, No. 4, 377-391, September 1996.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH


flame spread; microgravity; spacecraft; ignition; wind effects; oxygen concentration


A two-dimensional, time-dependent model is developed describing ignition and the subsequent transition to flame spread over a thermally thin cellulosic sheet heated by external radiation in a microgravity environment. The effects of a slow extermal wind (0-5 cm/s), and of the flux distribution of the external radiation on the transition are studied mainly in an atmosphere of 30% oxygen concentration. The ignition is initiated along the width of a sample strip, giving rise initially to two flame fronts spreading in opposite directions. The calculated results are compared with data obtained in the 2.2-s drop tower. Both experimental and calculated results show that with a slow, imposed wind, the upstream flame front (opposed mode) is stronger and slightly faster than the quiescent counterpart due to a greater supply of oxygen. However, the downstream flame front (concurrent mode) tends to die during the transition period. For all calculated cases studied in this work using the selected kinetic constants for the global one-step gas phase reaction, the downstream flame front dies out in oxygen concentrations up to 50% and wind velocity up to 5 cm/s. This is caused by the "oxygen shadow" cast by the upstream flame. The ignition delay time depends mainly on the peak flux of external radiation, whereas the transition time to steady state flame spread depends mainly on the broadness of the flux distribution. The broader the radiative flux distribution, the greater the transient flame spread rate due to the preheating of the sample ahead of the flame front by the external radiation and thus the greater the delay to steady state flame spread.