The Structure of the Blue Whirl: A Soot-Free Reacting Vortex Phenomenon

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Hariharan, Sriram Bharath
Gollner, Michael J
Oran, Elaine S
Recent experiments have led to the discovery of the blue whirl, a small, stable flame that evolves from a fire whirl, and burns typically sooty hydrocarbons without producing soot. The distinct physical structure of the flame is investigated through digital imaging techniques, which suggest that the transition and shape of the flame may be influenced by vortex breakdown. The thermal structure of the blue whirl reveals a peak temperature around 2000 K, and that most of the combustion occurs in a relatively small, visibly bright vortex ring. The formation of the flame is shown to occur over a variety of surfaces, including water and flat metal, all of which indicate that the formation of the blue whirl is strongly influenced by the flow structure over the incoming boundary layer. Finally, a schematic structure of the blue whirl is proposed, based on the measurements presented here and previous literature on fire whirls and vortex breakdown.