The Flame Design investigation studies the production and control of soot in order to optimize oxygen-enriched combustion and the design of robust, soot-free flames. Soot can adversely affect efficiency, emissions, and equipment lifetime, so this may lead to more efficient and cleaner burner designs. The experiment is conducted with spherical flames of gaseous fuels in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) as part of the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) project.
The majority of practical combustion processes involve the non-premixed combustion of hydrocarbons. These processes must be efficient, and the resulting emissions must be low. For example, soot production, which can adversely affect efficiency, emissions, and equipment lifetime, must be controlled, and flame extinction must be avoided. Many methods have been considered to reduce soot, such as increasing inert concentrations and reducing pressures, but these techniques generally weaken flames, leading to performance penalties and possible extinction.
The Flame Design study considers an innovative method of approaching combustion to address these concerns. The approach is termed flame design, as it takes a fundamental understanding of diffusion flames and, within the inherent constraints imposed, designs flames that best optimize efficiency and minimize pollutants.
The Flame Design research is not being conducted to serve any space applications, but it is possible that its findings could aid the development of future space-based combustion devices (e.g., for solid waste processing) or in improving spacecraft fire safety.
Flame Design seeks to reduce emissions and equipment costs and increase efficiencies in practical terrestrial combustion, thus creating more efficient and cleaner burner designs. Specifically, its goal is to enable robust, soot-free flames and the optimization of oxygen-enriched combustion, which facilitates capture and long-term storage of carbon.