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Concept: Flame


Fire whirls are powerful, spinning disasters for people and surroundings when they occur in large urban and wildland fires. Whereas fire whirls have been studied for fire-safety applications, previous research has yet to harness their potential burning efficiency for enhanced combustion. This article presents laboratory studies of fire whirls initiated as pool fires, but where the fuel sits on a water surface, suggesting the idea of exploiting the high efficiency of fire whirls for oil-spill remediation. We show the transition from a pool fire, to a fire whirl, and then to a previously unobserved state, a “blue whirl.” A blue whirl is smaller, very stable, and burns completely blue as a hydrocarbon flame, indicating soot-free burning. The combination of fast mixing, intense swirl, and the water-surface boundary creates the conditions leading to nearly soot-free combustion. With the worldwide need to reduce emissions from both wanted and unwanted combustion, discovery of this state points to possible new pathways for reduced-emission combustion and fuel-spill cleanup. Because current methods to generate a stable vortex are difficult, we also propose that the blue whirl may serve as a research platform for fundamental studies of vortices and vortex breakdown in fluid mechanics.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Hydrogen, Tornado, Fire, Combustion, Vortices, Fuel, Flame


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particles emitted by incense sticks and candles combustion in an experimental room have been monitored on-line and continuously with a high time resolution using a state-of-the-art high sensitivity-proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometer (HS-PTR-MS) and a condensation particle counter (CPC), respectively. The VOC concentration-time profiles, i.e., an increase up to a maximum concentration immediately after the burning period followed by a decrease which returns to the initial concentration levels, were strongly influenced by the ventilation and surface interactions. The obtained kinetic data set allows establishing a qualitative correlation between the elimination rate constants of VOCs and their physicochemical properties such as vapor pressure and molecular weight. The emission of particles increased dramatically during the combustion, up to 9.1(±0.2) × 10(4) and 22.0(±0.2) × 10(4) part cm(-3) for incenses and candles, respectively. The performed kinetic measurements highlight the temporal evolution of the exposure level and reveal the importance of ventilation and deposition to remove the particles in a few hours in indoor environments.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Physical chemistry, Pressure, Volatile organic compound, Vapor, Fire, Incense, Flame


Large wildfires of increasing frequency and severity threaten local populations and natural resources and contribute carbon emissions into the earth-climate system. Although wildfires have been researched and modeled for decades, no verifiable physical theory of spread is available to form the basis for the precise predictions needed to manage fires more effectively and reduce their environmental, economic, ecological, and climate impacts. Here, we report new experiments conducted at multiple scales that appear to reveal how wildfire spread derives from the tight coupling between flame dynamics induced by buoyancy and fine-particle response to convection. Convective cooling of the fine-sized fuel particles in wildland vegetation is observed to efficiently offset heating by thermal radiation until convective heating by contact with flames and hot gasses occurs. The structure and intermittency of flames that ignite fuel particles were found to correlate with instabilities induced by the strong buoyancy of the flame zone itself. Discovery that ignition in wildfires is critically dependent on nonsteady flame convection governed by buoyant and inertial interaction advances both theory and the physical basis for practical modeling.

Concepts: Scientific method, Fundamental physics concepts, Natural environment, Heat, Force, Convection, Wildfire, Flame


When two or more candle flames are fused by approaching them together, the resulting large flame often exhibits flickering, i.e., prolonged high-frequency oscillation in its size and luminance. In the present work, we investigate the collective behaviour of three-coupled candle flame oscillators in a triangular arrangement. The system showed four distinct types of syncronised modes as a consequence of spontaneous symmetry breaking. The modes obtained include the in-phase mode, the partial in-phase mode, the rotation mode, and an anomalous one called the “death” mode that causes a sudden stop of the flame oscillation followed by self-sustained stable combustion. We also clarified the correlation between the inter-flame distance and the frequency with which the modes occur.

Concepts: Symmetry, Wave, Fire, Combustion, Spontaneous symmetry breaking, Higgs mechanism, Flame, Candle


Oscillating chemical reactions result from complex periodic changes in the concentration of the reactants. In spatially ordered ensembles of candle flame oscillators the fluctuations in the ratio of oxygen atoms with respect to that of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen produces an oscillation in the visible part of the flame related to the energy released per unit mass of oxygen. Thus, the products of the reaction vary in concentration as a function of time, giving rise to an oscillation in the amount of soot and radiative emission. Synchronisation of interacting dynamical sub-systems occurs as arrays of flames that act as master and slave oscillators, with groups of candles numbering greater than two, creating a synchronised motion in three-dimensions. In a ring of candles the visible parts of each flame move together, up and down and back and forth, in a manner that appears like a “worship”. Here this effect is shown for rings of flames which collectively empower a central flame to pulse to greater heights. In contrast, situations where the central flames are suppressed are also found. The phenomena leads to in-phase synchronised states emerging between periods of anti-phase synchronisation for arrays with different columnar sizes of candle and positioning.

Concepts: Chemical reaction, Hydrogen, Chemistry, Carbon, Oscillation, Feedback, Flame, Candle


Spreading fires are noisy (and potentially chaotic) systems in which transitions in dynamics are notoriously difficult to predict. As flames move through spatially heterogeneous environments, sudden shifts in temperature, wind, or topography can generate combustion instabilities, or trigger self-stabilizing feedback loops, that dramatically amplify the intensities and rates with which fires propagate. Such transitions are rarely captured by predictive models of fire behavior and, thus, complicate efforts in fire suppression. This paper describes a simple, remarkably instructive physical model for examining the eruption of small flames into intense, rapidly moving flames stabilized by feedback between wind and fire (i.e., “wind-fire coupling”-a mechanism of feedback particularly relevant to forest fires), and it presents evidence that characteristic patterns in the dynamics of spreading flames indicate when such transitions are likely to occur. In this model system, flames propagate along strips of nitrocellulose with one of two possible modes of propagation: a slow, structured mode, and a fast, unstructured mode sustained by wind-fire coupling. Experimental examination of patterns in dynamics that emerge near bifurcation points suggests that symptoms of critical slowing down (i.e., the slowed recovery of the system from perturbations as it approaches tipping points) warn of impending transitions to the unstructured mode. Findings suggest that slowing responses of spreading flames to sudden changes in environment (e.g., wind, terrain, temperature) may anticipate the onset of intense, feedback-stabilized modes of propagation (e.g., “blowup fires” in forests).

Concepts: Mode, Model, Feedback, The Onset, Slow, Slow Movement, Flame


This work demonstrates for the first time the fabrication of a microfluidic flame atomic emission spectrometer (FAES), which incorporates a microburner and flame (flame-on-a-chip). The essential part of the device is a thermospray system applied as an effective sample introduction, which is more easily miniaturizable and integrable than the conventional nebulization methods. The merits and limitations of the microfluidic flame atomic emission device were demonstrated and discussed. Using a commercial cigarette lighter including butane gas the flame temperature made possible the analysis of the most easily excitable alkali metals. The calibration diagrams for the Li, Na, K showed proper linearity in the range of 5-100 mg/L. The analytical applicability of the microfluidic FAES device was tested by analysis of several types of real samples.

Concepts: Smoking, Metal, Lithium, Alkali metal, Flame, Naphtha, Lighter


Planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) of hydroxyl (OH) and formaldehyde (CH2O) radicals was performed alongside stereo particle image velocimetry (PIV) at a 20 kHz repetition rate in a highly turbulent Bunsen flame. A dual-pulse burst-mode laser generated envelopes of 532 nm pulse pairs for PIV as well as a pair of 355 nm pulses, the first of which was used for CH2O PLIF. A diode-pumped solid-state Nd:YAG/dye laser system produced the excitation beam for the OH PLIF. The combined diagnostics produced simultaneous, temporally resolved two-dimensional fields of OH and CH2O and two-dimensional, three-component velocity fields, facilitating the observation of the interaction of fluid dynamics with flame fronts and preheat layers. The high-fidelity data acquired surpass the previous state of the art and demonstrate dual-pulse burst-mode laser technology with the ability to provide pulse pairs at both 532 and 355 nm with sufficient energy for scattering and fluorescence measurement at 20 kHz.

Concepts: Alcohol, Fluid dynamics, Measurement, Combustion, Particle image velocimetry, Laser-induced fluorescence, Flame, Bunsen burner


We have employed, to the best of our knowledge, a novel excitation scheme to perform the first high-repetition-rate planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) measurements of a CN radical in combustion. The third harmonic of a Nd:YVO4 laser at 355 nm due to its relatively large linewidth overlaps with several R branch transitions in a CN ground electronic state. Therefore, the 355 nm beam was employed to directly excite the CN transitions with good efficiency. The CN measurements were performed in premixed CH4-N2O flames with varying equivalence ratios. A detailed characterization of the high-speed CN PLIF imaging system is presented via its ability to capture statistical and dynamical information in these premixed flames. Single-shot CN PLIF images obtained over a HMX pellet undergoing self-supported deflagration are presented as an example of the imaging system being applied towards characterizing the flame structure of energetic materials.

Concepts: Performance, Music, Imaging, Fire, Combustion, Laser-induced fluorescence, Flame, Premixed flame


Combustion research requires the use of state of the art diagnostic tools, including high energy lasers and gated, cooled CCDs. However, these tools may present a cost barrier for laboratories with limited resources. While the cost of high energy lasers and low-noise cameras continues to decline, new imaging technologies are being developed to address both cost and complexity. In this paper, we analyze the use of compressive sensing for flame diagnostics by reconstructing Raman images and calculating mole fractions as a function of radial depth for a highly strained, N2-H2 diffusion flame. We find good agreement with previous results, and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this technique.

Concepts: Mathematics, Diagnosis, IMAGE, Imaging, Fire, Flame