NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Combustion of Metals in Reduced-Gravity and Extraterrestrial EnvironmentAs a result of the ongoing exploration of Mars and the several unmanned and manned missions planned for the future, increased attention has been given to the use of the natural resources of the planet for rocket propellant production and energy generation. Since the atmosphere of Mars consists of approximately 95% carbon dioxide (CO2), this gas is the resource of choice to be employed for these purposes. Unfortunately, CO2 is also a final product in most combustion reactions, requiring further processing to extract useful reactants such as carbon monoxide (CO), oxygen (O2), and hydrocarbons. An exception is the use Of CO2 as an oxidizer reacting directly with metal fuel. Since many metals burn vigorously with CO2, these may be used as an energy source and as propellants for an ascent/descent vehicle in sample-collection missions on Mars. In response to NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) Enterprise to search for appropriate in-situ resource utilization techniques, this investigation will study the burning characteristics of promising metal/CO2 combinations. The use of reduced gravity is essential to eliminate the intrusive buoyant flows that plague the high-temperature metal reactions, to remove the destructive effect of gravity on the shape of molten metal samples, and to study the influence of radiative heat transfer from solid oxides undisturbed by natural convection. In studies with large metal specimens, the burning process is invariably influenced by strong convective currents that accelerate the reaction and shorten the burning times. Although these currents are nearly absent from small burning particles, the high emissivity of the flames, rapid reaction, small length scales, and intermittent explosions make the gathering of any useful information on burning rates and flame structure very difficult. This investigation has the ultimate goal of providing a careful probing of flame structure and dynamics by taking advantage of large, free-floating spherical metal samples and their corresponding long burning times available in reduced gravity. The first set of experiments has been conducted with magnesium (Mg) samples burning in the low-gravity environment generated by an aircraft flying parabolic trajectories. Owing to its high adiabatic flame temperature, oxidizer/fuel ratio, and heat per unit mass of fuel, as well as its low toxicity and low ignition temperature, Mg has been identified as a promising metal fuel with CO2 as oxidizer. The experimental effort is complemented by the development of a numerical model combining gas-phase chemical kinetics and transport mechanisms.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Abbud-Madrid, A. (Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO United States)
Omaly, P. (Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO United States)
Branch, M. C. (Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO United States)
Daily, J. W. (Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO 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.

Related Records

IDRelationTitle19990053965Analytic PrimaryFifth International Microgravity Combustion Workshop
Document Inquiry