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Quantitative Measurement of Oxygen in Microgravity CombustionA low-gravity environment, in space or in ground-based facilities such as drop towers, provides a unique setting for studying combustion mechanisms. Understanding the physical phenomena controlling the ignition and spread of flames in microgravity has importance for space safety as well as for better characterization of dynamical and chemical combustion processes which are normally masked by buoyancy and other gravity-related effects. Due to restrictions associated with performing measurements in reduced gravity, diagnostic methods which have been applied to microgravity combustion studies have generally been limited to capture of flame emissions on film or video, laser Schlieren imaging and (intrusive) temperature measurements using thermocouples. Given the development of detailed theoretical models, more sophisticated diagnostic methods are needed to provide the kind of quantitative data necessary to characterize the properties of microgravity combustion processes as well as provide accurate feedback to improve the predictive capabilities of the models. When the demands of space flight are considered, the need for improved diagnostic systems which are rugged, compact, reliable, and operate at low power becomes apparent. The objective of this research is twofold. First, we want to develop a better understanding of the relative roles of diffusion and reaction of oxygen in microgravity combustion. As the primary oxidizer species, oxygen plays a major role in controlling the observed properties of flames, including flame front speed (in solid or liquid flames), extinguishment characteristics, flame size and flame temperature. The second objective is to develop better diagnostics based on diode laser absorption which can be of real value in both microgravity combustion research and as a sensor on-board Spacelab as either an air quality monitor or as part of a fire detection system. In our prior microgravity work, an eight line-of-sight fiber optic system measured water vapor mole fractions in the NASA Lewis 2.2-sec Drop Tower. In that system, the laser and all electronics resided at the top of the drop tower and was connected via a fiber optic cable to the rig, on which a 'pitch and catch' set of fiber collimating lenses were used to transmit the laser beam across a jet diffusion flame. This system required eight independent detection/demodulation units and had poor spatial resolution. This research builds on this earlier work, resulting in an improved capability for quantitative, nonintrusive measurement of major combustion species. A vertical cavity surface-emitting diode laser (VCSEL) and a continuous spatial scanning method permit the measurement of temporal and spatial profiles of the concentrations and temperatures of molecular oxygen. High detection sensitivity is achieved with wavelength modulation spectroscopy (WMS). One-g experiments are performed using a slot diffusion flame. Microgravity measurements on a solid fuel (cellulose sheet) system are planned for the NASA Lewis 2.2-second Drop Tower Facility.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Silver, Joel A.
(Southwest Sciences, Inc. Santa Fe, NM United States)
Date Acquired
August 17, 2013
Publication Date
May 1, 1997
Publication Information
Publication: Fourth International Microgravity Combustion Workshop
Subject Category
Materials Processing
Accession Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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