General Question

AstroChuck's avatar

Would a lit match in zero-G be snuffed out from the smoke it produces?

Asked by AstroChuck (37373points) March 23rd, 2010 from iPhone

And assuming the air isn’t moving.

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15 Answers

kevbo's avatar

That’s a head scratcher, but i’ll add a) is fire affected by gravity, and b) does it require air circulation beyond it’s ability to create it?

davidbetterman's avatar

If there is enough oxygen in the zero-G environment to support fire, then the action of the flaring of the match-head would cause the smoke created to blow away from the point of ignition.
No, the match would not get snuffed out from the smoke it produces.

gorillapaws's avatar

@davidbetterman “the action of the flaring of the match-head…” is this just the initial ignition that forces the smoke away, or is there a perpetual force generated by the burning of the match?

davidbetterman's avatar

@gorillapaws I believe that the action would not be perpetual but rather would diminish as the propellant burns away. The original ignition of a flaring match is quite violent and you will easily observe even here on Earth that the smoke is blown away from the flame by the force of ignition.

The_Idler's avatar

the heat of the combustion (throughout the burning of the match) would cause the air and particulate matter (smoke) to rise away from the fire.

Considering that, in a one G environment, the smoke goes UP, wouldn’t you think that, with no gravity at all, it will go UP even easier?

If gravity had such a considerable effect on smoke, how on Earth would we ever get a camp fire going?

zaphod's avatar

Second law of thermodynamic equilibrium states that there will be an exchange of matter or energy when two systems of different equilibrium come in contact. In this case—the two systems are the fire (hot air) and the surrounding (cold air). The heat flow from the two systems causes circulation of air. I’m assuming this will cause the smoke to dissipate into the surrounding air and oxygen to enter the flame.

So, yes, the flame will stay lit.

LuckyGuy's avatar

They did that experiment on the Space shuttle. It makes Flame balls .

mattbrowne's avatar

Great question, my friend! Well, a hot-air balloon requires gravity. And something similar is happening with a camp fire (hot air carrying away the heavier fine particles). Now what about the smoke of a lit match in zero-g? I think it would still dissipate because of the kinetic energy and inertia of the fine particle bouncing off the non-burned parts of the match.

zophu's avatar

Flame balls. Yay! (all the contribution I could manage on this subject)

gorillapaws's avatar

I wonder if NASA wanted to call them “Balls of Fire” but ran into trademark and copyright issues…

Rarebear's avatar

Good question. Yes, I think it would be snuffed out. They’re not allowed to try it, though.!.html

ETpro's avatar

Great question. No, not quite. Smoke doesn’t behave like it does where gravity effects it. It doesn’t rise, it dissipates by diffusion, as the molecules in warm air are quite active, zipping here and there and colliding with one another and with particles in their presence. It also makes for a funny looking and odd behaving flame, as others have noted. Here’s a picture of a candle in microgravity.

elenuial's avatar

I can’t answer this, but THIS IS AN AWESOME QUESTION. (The end.)

gasman's avatar

From Scientific American : How does a flame behave in zero gravity?

”...neither buoyancy nor convection occur in a zero-gravity environment such as space. Consequently, the combustion products accumulate around the flame, preventing sufficient oxygen from reaching it and sustaining the combustion reaction. Ultimately the flame goes out. [emphasis mine]

”...In the early years of the U.S. space program, tests were conducted on unmanned missions to ascertain what would happen to a flame in a pure oxygen environment under weightless conditions. Researchers learned that flames extinguish themselves.”

Before the flame goes out it is spherical in shape—see photo at link.

The_Idler's avatar

Oh, now i feel stupid… of course convection doesn’t occur in zero-G.


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