Flame Extinction of Spherical PMMA in Microgravity: Effect of Fuel Diameter and Conduction

Chuanjia Wu, Peiyi Sun, Xiuzhen Wang, Xinyan Huang, Shuangfeng Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


A series of experiments were conducted in the 3.6-s microgravity drop tower and normal gravity to investigate the effect of solid fuel curvature, conduction, and reradiation on the flame extinction of spherical polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). In the semi-quiescent microgravity environment, flame extinction was observed if the PMMA diameter was larger than 40 mm, because of a smaller flame conductive heating in larger diameter (i.e., the curvature effect). Compared to the droplet combustion with a low evaporation point and fast heat convection in the liquid phase, the solid fuel has a high pyrolysis point and large transient heat conduction. Thus, the large surface reradiation effectively cools down the fuel surface to promote extinction. Also, as the initial burning duration increases, the conductive cooling into the solid fuel decreases, which delays or prevents the flame extinction in microgravity. The extinction criterion for microgravity flame is explained by the critical mass flux and mass-transfer number. This work helps to understand the curvature effect of solid fuel on flame extinction and the material fire safety in the microgravity spacecraft environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1075
Number of pages11
JournalMicrogravity Science and Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Curvature effect
  • Drop tower
  • Heat conduction
  • Plastic fuel
  • Spacecraft fire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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