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medea
Jan 24, 2003, 10:24 AM
Space shuttle Columbia's astronauts created minuscule balls of flame in their 180-mile-high combustion chamber, an experiment that could lead to better and cleaner car engines.
They ignited hydrogen and methane fuel inside a sealed cabinet Thursday and set records for the weakest flame and leanest mixture ever burned in space or on Earth, said the lead scientist, Paul Ronney of the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.
The flames, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, were too weak to be seen by the naked eye and had to be magnified through a video camera.
To get the astronauts in the mood, Mission Control piped up a recording of "Burning Down the House" by the Talking Heads.
On Wednesday, the astronauts burned a flame that produced just one-half of one watt of thermal power, Ronney said. A birthday candle, by comparison, is about 50 watts.
Then on Thursday -- one week into Columbia's 16-day research mission -- one of the flames consisted of an 8 percent mixture of fuel and air, Ronney said. The leanest mixture that can be burned in a car engine is about 70 percent.
By going to space and getting rid of gravity, scientists can get weak flames to burn longer and thus yield data of use to the auto industry. The goal is to design car engines that can burn fuel more efficiently and produce less pollution.

One flame ball burned for about 20 minutes aboard Columbia, also believed to be record, Ronney said. A similar fire experiment flew on Columbia in 1997.
http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/space/01/24/shuttle.fire.ap/index.html

Thanatoast
Jan 24, 2003, 06:03 PM
they need pics. fire in zero-g would would be sweet.