A quantitative analysis of the ignition characteristics of fine iron particles

Xiaocheng Mi (Corresponding author), Aki Fujinawa, J.M. Bergthorson

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Ignition of iron particles in an oxidizing environment marks the onset of self-sustained combustion. The objective of the current study is to quantitatively examine the ignition characteristics of fine iron particles (i.e., 1µm- to 100µm-sized) governed by the kinetics of solid-phase iron oxidation. The oxidation rates are inversely proportional to the thickness of the oxide layer (i.e., following a parabolic rate law) and calibrated using the experimentally measured growth of iron-oxide layers over time. Steady-state (i.e., Semenov's analysis) and unsteady analysis have been performed to probe the dependence of the critical gas temperature required to trigger a thermal runaway (namely, the ignition temperature T ign) on particle size, initial thickness of oxide layer, inert gas species, radiative heat loss, and the collective heating effect in a suspension of particles. Both analyses indicate that T ign depends on δ 0, i.e., the ratio between the initial oxide layer thickness and particle size, regardless of the absolute size of the particle. The unsteady analysis predicts that, for δ 0≲0.003, T ign becomes independent of δ 0. Under standard conditions in air, T ign is approximately 1080 K for any particle size greater than 5µm. The ignition temperature decreases as the thermal conductivity of the oxidizing gas decreases. Radiative heat loss has a minor effect on T ign. The collective effect of a suspension of iron particles in reducing T ign is demonstrated. The transition behavior between kinetic-controlled and external-diffusion-controlled combustion regimes of an ignited iron particle is systematically examined. The influences of initial oxide-layer thickness and particle temperature on the ignition delay time, τ ign, of iron particles are parametrically probed. A d 2-law scaling between τ ign and particle size is identified. Possible sources of inaccuracy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112011
Number of pages17
JournalCombustion and Flame
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Heterogeneous combustion
  • Ignition analysis
  • Iron particle
  • Metal fuel


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