Microgravity experiments and numerical studies on ethanol/air spray flames

Abstract : Spray flames are known to exhibit amazing features in comparison with single-phase flames. The weightless situation offers the conditions in which the spray characteristics can be well controlled before and during combustion. The article reports on a joint experimental/numerical work that concerns ethanol/air spray flames observed in a spherical chamber using the condensation technique of expansion cooling (based on the Wilson cloud chamber principle), under microgravity. We describe the experimental setup and give details on the creation of a homogeneous and nearly monosized aerosol. Different optical diagnostics are employed successfully to measure the relevant parameters of two-phase combustion. A classical shadowgraphy system is used to track the flame speed propagation and allow us to observe the flame front instability. The complete characterization of the aerosol is performed with a laser diffraction particle size analyser by measuring the droplet diameter and the droplet density number, just before ignition. A laser tomography device allows us to measure the temporal evolution of the droplet displacement during flame propagation, as well as to identify the presence of droplets in the burnt gases. The numerical modelling is briefly recalled. In particular, spray-flame propagation is schematized by the combustion spread in a 2-D lattice of fuel droplets surrounded by an initial gaseous mixture of fuel vapour and air. In its spherical expansion, the spray flame presents a corrugated front pattern, while the equivalent single-phase flame does not. From a numerical point of view, the same phenomena of wrinkles are also observed in the simulations. The front pattern pointed out by the numerical approach is identified as of Darrieus–Landau (DL) type. The droplets are found to trigger the instability. Then, we quantitatively compare experimental data with numerical predictions on spray-flame speed. The experimental results show that the spray-flame speed is of the same order of magnitude as that of the single-phase premixed flame. On the other hand, the numerical results exhibit the role played by the droplet radius in spray-flame propagation, and retrieve the experiments only when the droplets are small enough and when the Darrieus–Landau instability is triggered. A final discussion is developed to interpret the various patterns experimentally observed for the spray-flame front.
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Comptes Rendus Mécanique, Elsevier Masson, 2017, 345 (2), pp.99 - 116. 〈10.1016/j.crme.2016.10.013〉
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Romain Thimothée, Christian Chauveau, Fabien Halter, Colette Nicoli, Pierre Haldenwang, et al.. Microgravity experiments and numerical studies on ethanol/air spray flames. Comptes Rendus Mécanique, Elsevier Masson, 2017, 345 (2), pp.99 - 116. 〈10.1016/j.crme.2016.10.013〉. 〈hal-01441677〉

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