Alternative fuels have the potential to reduce societies’ dependence on fossil fuels. Biofuels can be produced that result in no net carbon being released into the atmosphere, mitigating global warming and reducing dependence on foreign imports. Canada has sufficient resources to allow it to produce a significant fraction of its transportation fuels. Alternative fuels of interest are methanol, produced from gasification of biomass and catalytic synthesis, and ethanol, produced from plant sugars or cellulose. In order to efficiently utilize these fuels in transportation and power-generation devices, the combustion of these fuels must be well understood. To understand the combustion chemistry of these fuels, experiments must be performed that can test the predictions of detailed chemistry models. Detonations result when an explosive mixture is ignited. A shock wave initiates a high-speed combustion process at a distance behind the wave that depends on the chemistry of the fuel-air mixture. This distance can be inferred from measurements of detonation cell sizes on soot foils placed in the detonation tube. In this project, detonation cell size measurements for a range of conditions will be used to test available combustion chemistry models. Two projects are available in this area, one studying methanol detonations and a second focused on ethanol detonations.
Metal wool combustion:
In this project, the combustion of metals in an oxidizing environment will be studied. This is an important problem for dust explosion processes, as well as for spacecraft safety. To study metal combustion, a loose-packed assembly of thin metal strands (metal wool) will be placed in a tube with a specified oxygen composition. The metal will be ignited at one end of the tube and a combustion wave (flame) will propagate along the tube. Using a high-speed video camera, the flame position as a function of time will be recorded to allow the flame speed to be measured. In order to better understand this complex heterogeneous combustion process, experiments will be performed while varying several controlling parameters. Parameters of interest are the metal type, the gauge of the wool, the wool density, and the oxygen content of the gas in the tube. The results will be analyzed in the context of these parameters. This work will be extended to microgravity experiments in the future to eliminate buoyancy-induced effects, and target issues associated with spacecraft and space station safety.