Effect of sub-atmospheric pressure on the characteristics of concurrent/upward flame spread over a thin solid

Luca Carmignani, Priya Garg, Maria Thomsen, Michael J. Gollner, Carlos Fernandez-Pello, David L. Urban, Gary A. Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The variation of ambient pressure is a potential tool for studying the driving parameters of fire dynamics and heat release in low-pressure environments such as high-altitude locations, aircraft, and spacecraft. The study of upward flame spread over a solid fuel has direct implications on material flammability and fire development, and low pressure environments have recently gained more attention for the possible comparison with the reduced gravity conditions encountered during space missions. In this work, we consider upward spreading flames over thin acrylic sheets in ambient pressures between 30 and 100 kPa. A forced flow velocity of 20 cm/s is added to the naturally-driven buoyant flow, creating a mixed flow field (natural and forced) that varies with pressure. Flame characteristics such as spread rate and standoff distance are measured from the video analysis of the experiments. It is observed that the former decreases with pressure while the latter increases. The larger flame stand-off distance at low pressures partially explains the decrease of the flame spread rate since the convective heat flux from the flame to the solid decreases. Additionally, volumetric concentrations of the combustion products are measured during the experiments. The results show lower O2 consumption and CO2 production rates at lower pressures. Based on these rates, we could calculate the heat release rate from upward spreading flames at low pressure, providing fundamental information for better understanding pressure-gravity correlations. According to the results, the volumetric heat release rate is proportional to pressure, which is consistent with previous studies on pressure modeling of fires. This suggests that chemical kinetics is not a constraint for the conditions tested in this study, which could help make future flammability tests comparable to low gravity ones.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112312
JournalCombustion and Flame
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Acrylic fuel
  • Heat release rate
  • Pressure modeling
  • Upward flame spread


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