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Quantitative Species Measurements in Microgravity Combustion Flames using Near-Infrared Diode LasersUnderstanding the physical phenomena controlling the ignition and spread of flames in microgravity has importance for space safety as well as for characterizing dynamical and chemical combustion processes which are normally masked by buoyancy and other gravity-related effects. Unfortunately, combustion is highly complicated by fluid mechanical and chemical kinetic processes, requiring the use of numerical modeling to compare with carefully designed experiments. More sophisticated diagnostic methods are needed to provide the kind of quantitative data necessary to characterize the properties of microgravity combustion as well as provide accurate feedback to improve the predictive capabilities of the models. Diode lasers are a natural choice for use under the severe conditions of low gravity experiments. Reliable, simple solid state operation at low power satisfies the operational restrictions imposed by drop towers, aircraft and space-based studies. Modulation wavelength absorption spectroscopy (WMS) provides a means to make highly sensitive and quantitative measurements of local gas concentration and, in certain cases, temperature. With near-infrared diode lasers, detection of virtually all major combustion species with extremely rapid response time is possible in an inexpensive package. Advancements in near-infrared diode laser fabrication technology and concurrent development of optical fibers for these lasers led to their use in drop towers. Since near-infrared absorption line strengths for overtone and combination vibrational transitions are weaker than the mid-infrared fundamental bands, WMS techniques are applied to increase detection sensitivity and allow measurement of the major combustion gases. In the first microgravity species measurement, Silver et al. mounted a fiber-coupled laser at the top of the NASA 2.2-sec drop tower and piped the light through a single-mode fiber to the drop rig. A fiber splitter divided the light into eight channels that directed the laser beam across a methane or propane diffusion jet flame. The light beams were recaptured by a set of gradient index lenses, coupled back into separate fiber optic lines, and transmitted back to detectors and electronics in the instrument package. In these experiments a 6-mm od fiber cable (containing the nine optical fibers) fell with the drop rig. Using separate detection and demodulation channels, spatial and temporal (up to 20 Hz) maps of water vapor and methane concentrations were obtained at differing heights in the flames. While this apparatus was useful from a demonstration standpoint, several drawbacks needed attention before useful scientific measurements could be obtained. First, eight lines of sight are somewhat insufficient for detailing the spatial profiles of the gas. Second, multiple detection channels operating in parallel are both expensive and present a challenge for accurate calibration. As a result, a newer scanning system was developed in our first contract under this program. The primary characteristic of this system is that it contains a single detection channel and achieves "continuous" spatial resolution by scanning the laser beam across the flame region, then directing this beam onto a single detector. Thus spatial measurements are converted to a temporal series of data. The true spatial resolution is limited only by the beam diameter and width of the sweep. In these experiments the beam is focused to about 1-mm diameter and scans across a region up to 4-cm wide.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Silver, Joel A.
(Southwest Sciences, Inc. Santa Fe, NM United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
May 1, 1999
Publication Information
Publication: Fifth International Microgravity Combustion Workshop
Subject Category
Materials Processing
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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