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Cool-Burning Flames In Space Might Enhance Engines On Earth

Update Date: Jul 29, 2014 10:33 AM EDT

Researchers have discovered a new type of cool burning flames that could lead to cleaner and more efficient engines for cars. 

"We observed something that we didn't think could exist,"  Forman Williams, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, San Diego said in the press release. 

An in-depth understanding of the cool flames' chemistry could help improve internal combustion engines in cars e.g., by developing homogenous-charge compression ignition. The technology, if employed, would lead to engines that burn fuel at cooler temperatures, emitting fewer pollutants such as soot and nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, also known as NOx, while still being efficient.

According to researchers, the cool flames are the result of elementary chemical reactions that do not have the time to develop around burning fuel droplets on earth. On earth they only exist for a very short period. 

Researchers underscored the fact that the research can only be carried out on ISS, where scientists have access to microgravity environment that provides a sufficient amount of test time for cool flames to occur. 

The findings have been detailed in the journal Microgravity Science and Technology.

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