SCIENCE INITIATIVE HARIPAD KERALA INDIA

Fire Burns Differently in Space, Space Station Experiment Shows

NASA is playing with fire on the International Space Station — literally.

Since March 2009, the space agency's Flame Extinguishment Experiment, or FLEX, has conducted more than 200 tests to better understand how fire behaves in microgravity, which is still not well understood. The research could lead to improved fire suppression systems aboard future spaceships, and it could also have practical benefits here on Earth, scientists said.


"We hope to gain a better knowledge of droplet burning, improved spacecraft fire safety and ideas for more efficient utilization of liquid fuels on Earth," project leader Forman Williams, of the University of California, San Diego, said in a statement. "The experiments will be used to verify numerical models that calculate droplet burning under different conditions."

Fire is a different beast in space than it is on the ground. When flames burn on Earth, heated gases rise from the fire, drawing oxygen in and pushing combustion products out. In microgravity, hot gases don't rise. So an entirely different process, called molecular diffusion, drives flame behavior.
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