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Soot Oxidation in Flames: NSF Highlight Format A & B

Principal Investigator(s): 

Abstract: 


NSF Highlight Format A

figure 1Outcome: Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a ternary flame system for the study of soot oxidation in flames. This novel flame system allows very complicated flame processes to be separated and controlled, and its study could contribute to a cleaner environment.

Impact/Benefits: Environmental soot kills more people than any other pollutant owing to its association with respiratory illness and cancer. Atmospheric soot is second only to CO2 in global warming, while melting of polar ice is accelerated by soot deposits. On the other hand, many industrial flames are designed to produce soot, such as those used to make carbon black for tires, paints, and print toner.

Background/Explanation: Soot is what makes many flames yellow. Soot chemistry is highly complex and involves formation and oxidation. In ordinary flames the soot formation and oxidation regions overlap, preventing either process from being studied independently. The new ternary flame system will allow soot oxidation to be studied in a region without soot formation. This could lead to more accurate computer models used in the design of engines and other combustors.

Figure 1 Caption: Color image of the ternary flame system. Soot oxidation will be studied in the yellow flame at the top of the image.

Figure 1 Credit: Michael Huis, Haiqing Guo, and Peter B. Sunderland (pbs@umd.edu); University of Maryland College Park


Directorate/Division: ENG/CBET
Program Officer: Arvind Atreya
NSF Award Number: BCBET0954441
Award Title: CAREER: Soot Oxidation in Hydrocarbon-Free Flames
PI Name: Peter B. Sunderland
Institution Name: University of Maryland, College Park
Program Element Code: PD 11-1407
NSF Highlight 2011


NSF Highlight Format B

Program Element Code: PD 11-1407
Background: Soot is what makes many flames yellow. Soot chemistry is highly complex and involves formation and oxidation. In ordinary flames the soot formation and oxidation regions overlap, preventing either process from being studied independently. The new ternary flame system will allow soot oxidation to be studied in a region without soot formation. This could lead to more accurate computer models used in the design of engines and other combustors.

Results: Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a ternary flame system for the study of soot oxidation in flames, see Fig. 1. This novel flame system allows very complicated flame processes to be separated and controlled, and its study could contribute to a cleaner environment.

Primary Strategic Outcome Goal (1), Discovery: Soot remains one of the least understood subjects in combustion and thermal science. Soot oxidation involves highly complex processes of heat and mass transfer and chemistry. There are also many experimental challenges in soot studies.

Primary Strategic Outcome Goal (2), Learning: This project has several educational impacts. Graduate students and undergraduates are conducting much of the research. The research results are being integrated into two combustion courses taught by the PI. The PI has teamed with two organizations at the University of Maryland – the Women in Engineering Program and the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering – to foster interest in science and engineering among female and minority secondary school students. The PI is developing a flame laboratory for secondary school students that is directly related to the research. The laboratory will be led by the PI and university students.

Transformative aspects: This research is developing a new ternary flame system, Fig. 1, with an unprecedented ability to establish soot oxidation reaction mechanisms for OH, O2, O, CO2 and H2O. A broad array of advanced diagnostics is involved. The system will be the first to allow mature or early soot from hydrocarbon diffusion flames to be oxidized in H2 or CO diffusion flames. The ability to control the species present, plus the expansive range of conditions to be considered, hold great promise for developing accurate and robust expressions of soot oxidation rates.

Intellectual merit: There are particularly large gaps in understanding soot oxidation processes. The leading numerical models of soot use disparate soot oxidation submodels. These submodels are based on experiments with significant uncertainties. Inaccuracies in these submodels are impeding not only the ability to model soot numerically, but also the understanding of soot formation processes in flames.

Broader impacts: The research will be disseminated widely by the PI to the combustion research community and to industry. It should advance the understanding of soot oxidation, formation, and emissions from flames. It should improve the accuracy of numerical models of soot kinetics. It is hoped that it will significantly benefit the environment.

Broadening participation: Female and minority students are involved in this research.

Potential societal benefits: Environmental soot kills more people than any other pollutant owing to its association with respiratory illness and cancer. Atmospheric soot is second only to CO2 in global warming, while melting of polar ice is accelerated by soot deposits. On the other hand, many industrial flames are designed to produce soot, such as those used to make carbon black for tires, paints, and print toner.