Research

Fractal Flame Propagation

Within a narrow gap between glass plates, hydrogen flames propagate in a fractal pattern.

Hydrogen is a promising alternative to carbon-based fuels, but it comes with its own special challenges. Hydrogen gas is extremely flammable, including under circumstances that would normally quench flames, as shown in this recent study.

What you see above are water condensation patterns left behind after the passage of hydrogen flames through a narrow gap between two glass plates. With other fuels, the narrow confinement and low fuel ratio used in these experiments would keep the flames from spreading. But because hydrogen is so light, it diffuses much faster than other fuels, allowing it to spread in these fractal patterns despite its confinement. Engineers will have to account for hydrogen’s easy spread when designing containment strategies. (Image and research credit: F. Veiga-López et al.; via APS Physics)

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