Feeds

COLD BALLS OF FLAME light up International Space Station

Keep Calm: Bright sparks, not aliens, set this fire

Intelligent flash storage arrays

At first glance, lighting a fire on the International Space Station (ISS) seems like a good way to earn a Darwin Award and the opprobrium of all humanity. Yet boffins have been doing it for some time in an effort to learn more about how flames behave.

Interestingly, is the answer from NASA, which today offered a look at some ISS fire experiments that have found fires lit in microgravity don't form the familiar forked tongues we see on earth, but instead dimly-glowing spheres that aren't nearly as hot to the touch as earthly flames.

These cool fires can also burn fuel without producing visible flames. The chemical reactions involved are “completely different,” Dr Forman A Williams, a professor of physics at UC San Diego and one of the boffins involved in the FLEX experiment that studies flames on the ISS, told NASA. “Normal flames produce soot, CO2 and water. Cool flames produce carbon monoxide and formaldehyde."

It's possible to figure this stuff out because, the FLEX project says “In the absence of gravity, small droplets of fuel burn 'one-dimensionally', which … allows the science team to easily measure and understand important features of the burning fuel that would otherwise be impossible to obtain on the ground.”

“This particular type of flame configuration allows measurement and observation of very complex interactions in a spherically one-dimensional system, providing insights into the behavior of combustion phenomena that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain in multi-dimensional systems that are typically found in most 1-g fires.”

The results described above have boffins excited that if we make terrestrial fires behave like fires in space, it could make for more efficient internal combustion engines. Gaining knowledge to improve spacecraft safety is another hoped-for outcome.

The rather saccharine video below offers more detail on the experiment and includes footage of the flames.

Watch Video

The FLEX project will continue into 2014, with experiments to trial different fuel mixes planned. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.