Candle Flame in Microgravity (CFM) - MGBX

Candle Flame Candle Flame


The objectives of this experiment were: (1) to determine if a quasi-steady candle flame can exist in a microgravity environment, (2) to determine the characteristics of the steady flame, (3) to study the previously observed pre-extinction oscillations, and (4) to observe the interactions between two closely spaced candle flames.

Shuttle-Mir Missions

79 total candles burned, with three different wick diameters, two different candle diameters, and two different initial exposed wick lengths. CFM was conducted inside the glovebox facility which provided power, video and photographic capabilities. It also provided a level of containment for combustion products. The data collected consisted of video and still photography, crew audio commentary, thermocouple measurements, and radiometric measurements and a single point oxygen measurement.

Data consisted of primarily 35 mm photographs of the flame and crew audio commentary. Results compared favorably with a recently developed numerical model of the microgravity candle flame. Both showed very long flame lifetimes are possible and the existence of pre-extinction flame oscillations. Limited number of 2 candle tests performed in favor of more single candle tests. New behavior observed -- long-lived flame oscillations and postflame aerosol cloud.

A steady flame is possible (at least in elevated oxygen concentrations) and pre-extinction flame oscillations are inherent to candle flames in microgravity.

Earth Benefits
Combustion science in the microgravity environment allows scientists to study flame mechanics without the effect of gravity. Improved understanding of combustion physics can be applied to pollution problems, atmospheric changes, fire safety, and treatment of hazardous waste. Microgravity research has had spin-offs that led to improvements in natural gas appliances; increasing fuel efficiency and decreasing pollution. In addition, new instrumentation have been developed to measure soot production in exhaust produced by combustion engines.

Ferkul, P.V., et al. "Combustion Experiments on the Mir Space Station," AIAA 99-0439.

Dietrich, D.L. et al. "Candle Flames in Non-Buoyant Atmospheres," in preparation.

Principal Investigators
Dr. Daniel L. Dietrich
NASA/Lewis Research Center

Prof. James S. T'ien
Dr. Howard D. Ross

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Page last updated: 07/16/1999