Interplanetary travel comes with a lot of risks that make the job of an astronaut, very dangerous. With various possibilities from leakages to critical system failures, fire hazard is certainly a threat. For safer space travel, NASA is studying the behaviour of flames in space by starting fires in microgravity.
According to NASA, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) used the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), a multipurpose equipment that can be used for a wide range of combustion experiments. In space, due to the lack of gravity, the flame burns spherically as hot gas expands away from the epicentre. On Earth, the hot gas burns and rises upwards while the dense cold air is gravitated down. This gives rise to both, the shape of the flame and the flickering effect that are absent in microgravity conditions. The spherical shape of flames in Zero G looks like an expanding swarm of fireflies originating from a single point in space.
The current experiments, Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) aim at developing fuel efficient combustion techniques and minimizing the amount of by-products like soot that were left behind. Some experiments test the use of various delivery systems for introducing oxygen and other compounds in combustion.
One of the most important experiments performed using the CIR was The Flame Extinguishment Experiment (FLEX) according to Daniel Dietrich, who is a scientist at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. The experiment analyzed the effectiveness of fire suppressants within which they burned droplets of fuel. Researchers during these experiments coincidentally found out that cold flames continued to burn even after extinguition of flame at certain conditions.
Daniel Dietrich also said that, “The low temperature chemical reactions that we can study on facilities like the space station are very important in real combustion systems like engines.” As the known details of combustion on Earth are incomplete, these experiments help us better understand the flame and safeguard all combustion processes in daily life.
Some people just want to watch the world burn but NASA certainly just wants to watch the flame burn to save the burning world.
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