2021 journal article
A numerical study of backdraft phenomena under normal and reduced gravity
Fire Safety Journal, 121, 103270.
Backdrafts are violent events that occur when oxygen is suddenly introduced to an oxygen-depleted compartment fire and are primarily driven by the presence of gravity currents. However, with human travel potentially expected beyond the confines of earth gravity, it is not clear how the magnitude of the gravity constant can contribute to the intensity of these events. This issue can be relevant when dealing with fires on space stations or on future bases on the Moon and Mars. In this study, we carry out backdraft simulations in a compartment under different reduced gravity conditions using the NIST Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) code. A combustion compartment, initially containing under-ventilated heated methane, is opened to the surroundings using a vertical opening slot. Through the bottom of the opening flows a gravity current of oxygen. When the current reaches the far wall of the combustion compartment, the mixture is ignited, and a violent backdraft event occurs. Measures of heat release, fire development, and pressure rise suggest that the effects of backdraft are highly nonlinear based on the gravity constant. Even small values of the gravity constant (as low as 0.01g) can trigger relatively strong backdrafts.