The conventional concept of how fires, and combustion in general, are initiated has involved a mechanism with free radical character. We have found that ionic mechanisms are the first to be involved, and that these set the pace and direction of free radical mechanistic events to follow.
In particular, we have been the first to observe that application of negative electrostatic fields to the initiating hot surface provides considerable enhancement of reaction rates; and that possibly the application of positive electrostatic charges may inhibit combustion proclivities. These have considerable implications for very important industrial hydrocarbon oxidations, and may have implications for firefighting and for inhibition (or promotion) of fire. There is particular significance to possibilities of production of alternatives to existing petroleum resources.
Important environmental considerations accrue in terms of the higher yields with fewer undesirable side reaction products for commercially important industrial hydrocarbon oxidations, and possibly for automobile engine performance. Improvements in firefighting have obviously important environmental ramifications. In all instances, there would be considerable economic advantages. There is also significant impact to the extent that these findings drastically alter the concepts of conventional combustion chemistry.
The Combustion Lab has conducted research in the following areas:
Current Research Project: Electrostatic (Anionic) Effects in Hot Surface Combustions. We have obtained results which show: