Burning Emulations of Condensed Phase Fuels Aboard The International Space Station

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Little is known about the fire hazards of solids and liquids in microgravity. Ground-based tests are too short to overcome ignition transients and testing dozens of condensed fuels in orbit is prohibitively expensive. Burning rate emulation is one way to address this gap. It involves emulating condensed fuels with gases using a porous burner with embedded heat flux gages. This is a study of microgravity burning rate emulation aboard the International Space Station. The burner had porous round surfaces with a diameter of 25 mm. The fuel mixture was gaseous ethylene, and it was diluted with various amounts of nitrogen. The resulting heats of combustion were 15 – 47.2 kJ/g. The flow rate, oxygen concentration in the ambient, and pressure were varied. Heat flux to the burner was measured with two embedded heat flux gages and a slug calorimeter. The effective heat of gasification was determined from the heat flux divided by the fuel flow rate. Radiometers provided the radiative loss fractions. A dimensional analysis based on radiation theory yielded a relationship for radiative loss fraction. RADCAL, a narrow-band radiation model, yielded flame emissivities from the product concentrations, temperature, flame length, and pressure. Previously published analytical solutions to these flames allowed prediction of flame heights and radius, and when combined with the radiation empirical relationship led to corrections of total heat release rate from the flames due to radiative loss. Average convective and radiative heat flux were obtained from the analytical solution and a model based on the geometrical view factor of the burner surface with respect to the flame sheet, that was used to calculate the heat of gasification. All flames burning in 21% by volume oxygen self-extinguished within 40 s. However, steady flames were observed at 26.5, 34, and 40% oxygen. The analytical solution was used to quantify flame steadiness just before extinction. The steadiest flames reached more than 94% of their steady-state heat fluxes and heights. A flammability map as a plot of the heat of gasification versus heat of combustion was developed based on the measurement and theory for nominal ambient oxygen mole fractions of 0.265, 0.34, and 0.4.