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Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

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Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jlp

Flame propagation behaviors of nano- and micro-scale PMMA dust


explosions
Xinyan Zhang a, Jianliang Yu a, Xingqing Yan a, Qiaofeng Xie b, Wei Gao a, c, *
a

School of Chemical Machinery, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, 116024, China


School of Aerospace Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, China
c
Institute of Fluid Science, Tohoku University, Sendai, Miyagi, 980-8577, Japan
b

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 21 June 2015
Received in revised form
8 November 2015
Accepted 15 December 2015
Available online 18 December 2015

Flame propagation behaviors of nano- and micro-polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) dust explosions
were experimentally studied in the open-space dust explosion apparatus. High-speed photography with
normal and microscopic lenses were used to record the particle combustion behaviors and ame microstructures. Simple physical models were developed to explore the ame propagation mechanisms.
High-speed photographs showed two distinct ame propagation behaviors of nano- and micro-PMMA
dust explosions. For nano-particles, ame was characterized by a regular spherical shape and spatially
continuous combustion structure combined with a number of luminous spot ames. The ame propagation mechanism was similar to that of a premixed gas ame coupled with solid surface combustion of
the agglomerates. In comparison, for micro-particles, ame was characterized by clusters of ames and
the irregular ame front, which was inferred to be composed of the diffusion ame accompanying the
local premixed ame. It was indicated that smaller particles maintained the leading part of the propagating ame and governed the combustion process of PMMA dust clouds. Increasing the mass densities
from 105 g/m3 to 217 g/m3 for 100 nm PMMA particles, and from 72 g/m3 to 170 g/m3 for 30 mm PMMA
particles, the ame luminous intensity, scale and the average propagation velocity were enhanced. Besides, the ame front became more irregular for 30 mm PMMA dust clouds.
2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Dust explosion
Nano- and micro-PMMA particles
Flame structure
Propagation mechanism

1. Introduction
Accompanying the wide use of nano-particles in a number of
elds such as solar cell materials, electrode materials, high-density
magnetic recording materials, high toughness ceramic materials,
catalyst materials, and body repair materials in recent years, nanosafety has been attracted as an urgent concern. As the core aspect of
nano-safety, dust explosion is a phenomenon that a ame is
propagating in combustible nanoparticles dispersed in the air. The
explosion intensity of nano-particles is typically stronger than
micro-particles. Studies on nano-dust explosion have been extensively conducted, most of which were focused on the explosion
sensitivity (Minimum Explosible Concentration (MEC), Minimum
Ignition Energy (MIE) and Minimum Ignition Temperature (MIT))
and the explosion severity (Maximum Explosion Pressure (Pmax),

* Corresponding author. School of Chemical Machinery, Dalian University of


Technology, Dalian, 116024, China.
E-mail address: gaowei07@mail.ustc.edu.cn (W. Gao).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jlp.2015.12.010
0950-4230/ 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Maximum Rate of Pressure-rise ((dP/dt)max), and Deagration Index (KSt)) (Krietsch et al., 2015; Mittal, 2014; Boilard et al., 2013;
Eckhoff, 2012; Li et al., 2011; Wu et al., 2009). Though the likelihood of an explosion increased signicantly as the particle size
decreased into the nano-range (Mittal, 2014; Boilard et al., 2013),
particles in nano-range were not expected to exhibit more severe
than micro-powders (Mittal, 2014; Eckhoff, 2012) due to the serious
agglomeration effect of nano-dust clouds. Flame propagation
mechanisms through combustible particle clouds for better understanding dust explosions, were mainly proposed for microparticles (Gao et al., 2014, 2015; Cao et al., 2014; Dobashi and
Senda, 2006; Proust, 2006; Sun et al., 2000). Gao et al. (Gao et al.,
2013) demonstrated that the ame front structure changed along
with varying the particle size distributions in micro-range. Ju et al.
(Ju et al., 1998) pointed out that the ame structure and propagating velocity were depended on the mass density and the
diameter distribution of micro particles strongly. But were the
ame structure and propagation mechanism changed when moving from micro-to nano-scale? Until now, the current understanding of ame propagation mechanism in nano-dust cloud is

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X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

still in its rudimentary state.


In this study, the ame structures and propagation behaviors
were systematically observed through a high-speed camera to
reveal the differences between nano- and micro-PMMA dust clouds
with different mass densities in an open-space dust explosion
apparatus. In addition, simple physical models were developed to
explain the different microstructures and ame propagation
mechanisms in burning nano- and micro-PMMA dust clouds.
2. Experiments
2.1. Experimental apparatus
The open-space dust explosion experimental apparatus, which
consisted of combustion tubes, a dispersion system, a gas supplying
system, an ignition system, a high-speed photography system, and
a time controller system, was schematically shown in Fig. 1. The
transparent cylindrical combustion tubes included a top tube with
an open end, a movable middle tube, and a bottom tube connected
to the stainless steel basement. The movable tube kept the dust
cloud free from the turbulence caused by surrounding air movement during dispersion. Just before ignition, the movable tube was
moved down to provide an open space for the combustible dust
clouds, so that the ame could propagated in an open eld without
the connement of the tube wall, and direct observation of ame
structure and propagation behavior could be realized. A gas nozzle
and a dispersing cone were mounted in the chamber to disperse the
experimental dust particles similar to the traditional Hartman
basement. The gas supplying unit were composed of a buffer vessel
lled with compressed air, a solenoid valve and air pipe lines. The
ignition system was composed of a high voltage transformer and a
pair of tungsten wire electrodes with the diameter of 0.4 mm. Two
high-speed cameras (Photron FASTCAM SA4 and Photron FASTCAM
SA5), one installed with a normal lens of Nikon AF Nikkor 50 mm f/
1.2, and the other installed with a microscopic lens of Nikon AF

Micro 200 mm f/4D, were used to record synchronously the ame


propagation behavior and microstructure, respectively. The time
when the movable tube started to be moved, the on-off time of the
solenoid valve, the startup times of the high-speed video cameras
and the action time of the high voltage transformer, were
controlled by a programmable logic controller (OMRON CPM1A).
Before experiments, the particles were dried in a drying oven for
at least 24 h to reduce the liquid bridge force between particles
caused by the water content. The experimental steps were as follows: weighed a certain amount of particles and put them in the
sample dish uniformly; opened the pressure reducing valve to
make sure that the gas pressure in the buffer vessel was 0.5 MPa;
turned on the high-speed cameras and started the time controller
system. The subsequent processes were controlled by the programmable logic controller. The time the programmable logic
controller was triggered was set to be 0 s. From 0.5 s to 1 s, the
solenoid valve was opened. The particles were dispersed in the
chamber by the ejected high pressure air to form the homogeneous
dust cloud. 0.2 s later, the electrical stoppers were triggered and the
movable tube was moved down to provide the open combustion
space. From 1.4 s, the high speed cameras were triggered to record
the ame microstructure and propagation behavior. When the dust
cloud was relatively stable and uniform at about 1.5 s, the 15 kV
high voltage transformer was discharged for 0.01 s. The suspended
particles were ignited and the ame propagated in the open space.
To determine the real mass densities of PMMA dust clouds, a
measurement illustrated in Fig. 2 was designed to capture the
suspended particles in the middle tube space. The measurement
system was composed of the particle dispersion unit, the particle
capture unit and the particle weigh unit. The particle dispersion
conditions were the same as aforementioned those of combustion
experiments. A sample capture orice controlled by an air driven
cylinder was inserted into the gap between the tubes. The driven
pressure of the cylinder was 0.26 MPa. When there was almost no
particles suspended in the middle space, the sample capture orice

Fig. 1. Experimental apparatus.

X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

103

Fig. 2. Mass densities measurement system.

was retracted. Particles which fell on the bottom board were


collected and weighted. As a result the mass densities of particles in
the middle tube space were determined according to the volume of
the middle space. In this study, the real mass densities of 30 mm and
100 nm PMMA particles were listed in Table 1.
2.2. Experimental materials
30 mm and 100 nm PMMA particles provided by Soken Chemical
Co., Ltd. of Japan Ministry were selected as the experimental
samples. Particle size distributions of 30 mm and 100 nm PMMA
particles measured by a Malvern Mastersizer 2000 laser diffraction
analyzer were shown in Fig. 3. The size distribution of 30 mm PMMA
particles was consistent satisfactorily with the value provided by
Soken Chemical Co., Ltd. of Japan Ministry. While the size distribution of 100 nm PMMA particles was obviously larger than the
provided value due to the serious agglomeration effect.
The volume diameter D[4,3], the Sauter diameter D[3,2], and the
parameters Dv (10), Dv (50), and Dv (90) which were the quantiles
of the volumetric distribution are listed in Table 2. It was indicated
that despite of the agglomeration effect, the Sauter diameter of
100 nm PMMA particles was still much smaller than that of 30 mm
PMMA particles, which proved a larger specic surface area for
100 nm PMMA particles.
Scanning electron microscope (SEM) was used to observe the
static microstructures and the particle sizes of 30 mm and 100 nm
PMMA particles by tens of thousands times amplication. It was
observed from Fig. 4 that both 30 mm and 100 nm PMMA particles
Table 1
Mass densities of 30 mm and 100 nm PMMA particles.
Name

MZ-30H (30 mm)

MP-300 (100 nm)

Mass density (g/m3)

72
138
170

105
168
217

Fig. 3. Particle size distributions of 30 mm and 100 nm PMMA particles.

Table 2
Characteristic diameters of 30 mm and 100 nm PMMA particles.
Diameters

MZ-30H (30 mm)

MP-300 (100 nm)

D[4,3] (mm)
D[3,2] (mm)
Dv (10) (mm)
Dv (50) (mm)
Dv (90) (mm)

28.974
24.080
16.509
24.523
43.186

24.877
10.486
6.151
22.543
46.764

were in regularly spherical shape. The 30 mm PMMA particles were


dispersedly distributed, whereas 100 nm PMMA particles exhibited
serious agglomeration effect due to the considerable inter-particle
forces.
The inter-particle forces are mainly composed of van der Waals'

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X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

Fig. 4. SEM images of 30 mm and 100 nm PMMA particles.

forces, electrostatic forces and the liquid bridge forces. The theoretical van der Waals force Fw between two spherical particles was

Fw

A d1 d2
a2 d1 d2

(1)

where A was a constant, a was the smallest distance between the


sphere surfaces, d1 and d2 were the diameters of the two spheres
(Eckhoff, 2012).
Assumed that the sizes of the contacted particles were the same,
the equation was reduced to

Fw

Ad
2a2

(2)

which indicated that the Van der Waals' force was enhanced with
decreasing particle diameter.
For PMMA particles used in this study, the electrostatic contact
force was negligible. In addition, because the particles were dried in
a drying oven for at least 24 h before experiments, the liquid bridge
force between particles caused by the water content could also be
negligible. The inter-particle forces probably mostly depended on
the Van der Waals forces, which meant that the inter-particle
forces of PMMA particles were increasing as decreasing the particle diameter.
The agglomeration between particles mainly depended on the
dimensionless number C0:

C0

F
mg

(3)

where F was the inter-particle forces, m was the mass of the particles, and g was the gravitational acceleration.
It can be concluded that the smaller the particle diameter, the
larger the agglomeration dimensionless number. For 100 nm
PMMA particles, the inter-particle forces were of signicance and
the agglomerates were easily formed. These results conrmed the
larger particle size distribution than the provided value of 100 nm
PMMA particles as shown in Fig. 3.

3. Results and discussion


3.1. Effects of particle diameter scales on ame structures and
propagation behaviors
A series of dust explosion experiments of 100 nm PMMA particles with a mass density of 168 g/m3 and 30 mm PMMA particles
with a mass density of 170 g/m3 were conducted in the open-space
experimental apparatus. The ame propagation processes were
presented in Fig. 5. It was obvious that the ame structures and
propagation behaviors of particles with different diameter scales
were signicantly different.
For 100 nm PMMA dust cloud, the ame structure was smooth
and continuous with the spherical shape similar to the premixed
gas explosions. It could be inferred that the particles were

X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

105

Fig. 5. Flame propagations of 100 nm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 168 g/m3 (a) and 30 mm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 170 g/m3 (b).

evaporated or pyrolyzed to form the premixed combustible gases


before the ame front passed through. While the ame structure of
30 mm PMMA dust cloud presented the clusters and irregular ame
fronts. Compared with 30 mm PMMA particles, 100 nm PMMA
particles had a larger specic surface area, which led to the faster
pyrolysis rate, diffusing and mixing with oxygen. As a result, the
ame exhibited a homogenous and smooth structure similar to the
premixed ame propagating in the homogeneous combustible gas.
Whereas for 30 mm PMMA particles, the larger particle sizes
resulted in the slower pyrolysis and decomposition. It had been
demonstrated previously that the ame was rstly propagated
towards the smaller particles nearby, and when these smaller
particles were completely pyrolyzed, a local premixed ame was
formed and developed to heat the adjacent larger particles, thus
establishing the local diffusion ame (Gao et al., 2013). In this situation, the combustion reaction only occurred in the regions where
the gaseous pyrolyzate of dust particles was available, which
resulted in clusters of ame fronts. Additionally, 100 nm PMMA
exhibited a stronger combustion luminous intensity due to the
more violent nature of the combustion reaction.
Using Roberts operator which is an image edge detection algorithm programmed by Matlab, the ame edges were exactly
extracted. The original ames and the corresponding ame contours of 100 nm and 30 mm PMMA dust clouds with different mass
densities listed in Table 1 were illustrated in Fig. 6. The ame front
positions from ignition point to the highest point of the ame front
and the ame propagation velocities with time after ignition of
100 nm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 168 g/m3 and 30 mm

PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 170 g/m3 were obtained and
showed in Fig. 7. In these experiments, the ame front of 100 nm
PMMA dust cloud reached the upper boundary of the open combustion space at 60 ms after ignition, while the 30 mm PMMA dust
cloud kept burning until 70 ms. It was indicated from Fig. 7(a) that
the ame front of 100 nm PMMA dust cloud moved upward nearly
linearly after ignition, whereas for 30 mm PMMA dust clouds, the
ame front position exhibited a different trend due to the complex
propagation mechanism that the combustion reaction only
occurred in the regions where the gaseous pyrolyzate of dust particles was available, resulting in the diffusion ame combined with
the local premixed ame and clusters of ame fronts. In the early
combustion stage of 30 mm PMMA dust cloud, the distance of ame
front from the ignition point to the highest point of the ame front
showed a pattern of rst decreasing, keeping constant, and then
increasing. This was indicated that the combustion reaction rst
occurred in the ignition area. Because the effect of particle sedimentation of unburnt particles was more signicant than that of
thermophoresis force in the early stage of combustion, the ame
propagated on other directions rather than upward direction, thus
the ame front position could keep constant or even move downward. With more particles participated in the combustion reaction,
more heat was released and the thermophoresis was accelerated.
The ame propagated upward where the gaseous pyrolyzate of
dust particles was available, and the distance of ame front was
increased. It was notable that in the later combustion process the
ame front propagation exhibited the tendency of increasingkeeping constant-increasing, which represented the ame

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X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

Fig. 6. The original ames and the corresponding ame contours of 100 nm and 30 mm PMMA dust clouds with different mass densities.

Fig. 7. Flame front positions from ignition point and ame propagation velocities with time after ignition of 100 nm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 168 g/m3 and 30 mm
PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 170 g/m3.

propagation process of propagating to the adjacent area where the


gaseous pyrolyzate of particles was available-the ame in this area
developed mostly in other directions rather than upward in a very
short time - the ame propagating to another adjacent area. This
result was precisely demonstrated by the micro ame photographs
showed in Fig. 12. Fig. 7(b) exhibited that the ame propagation
velocities were uctuated in the combustion processes of 100 nm
and 30 mm PMMA dust clouds. It was obvious that the ame

propagation velocity of 30 mm PMMA dust cloud was uctuated


more seriously than that of the 100 nm PMMA dust cloud. This
phenomenon was caused by the discontinuous propagation fronts
of 30 mm PMMA dust cloud and the turbulence induced by heat and
mass transfer between particles. The average ame propagation
velocities of 100 nm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 168 g/
m3 and 30 mm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 170 g/m3
were 0.91 m/s and 0.93 m/s, respectively.

X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

3.2. Effects of dust mass densities on ame structures and


propagation behaviors
To analyze the effects of dust mass densities on ame structures
and propagation behaviors, 100 nm and 30 mm PMMA dust clouds
with different mass densities listed in Table 1 were arranged, and
the combustion processes were depicted in Figs. 8e9.
For 100 nm PMMA dust clouds illustrated in Fig. 8, when the
dust mass density was 105 g/m3, the ame propagated outward
almost spherically from the ignition point in the early stage
(0e30 ms after ignition). At about 40 ms after ignition, a small
ame was formed below the main ame and developed slowly as
the combustion proceeded. This was caused by the turbulence
induced by particle sedimentation and buoyancy effect distorted
the ame. Additionally, the relative smaller ame propagation velocity made the turbulence effect more signicant. As a whole, the
ame of 100 nm dust clouds with different mass densities were all
approximately in regular spherical shape. Increasing the mass
density from 105 g/m3 to 217 g/m3, more particles participated in
the combustion reaction. Hence, more heat was released to
enhance the pyrolysis and decomposition of the unburnt particles.
The ame luminous intensity became stronger, and the ame scale
became larger. For 30 mm PMMA dust cloud shown in Fig. 9, the
ame propagation was considerable weaker when the mass density
was 72 g/m3. With the mass density increased to 170 g/m3, the
ame scale became larger and the ame front became more
irregular. It could be also seen that the ame of 30 mm PMMA dust
cloud was positioned on the upper area of the photos compared
with that of 100 nm PMMA dust cloud, which indicated that the
effect of buoyancy on ame propagation was dominant so that the
upward ame propagation velocity was enhanced.
The ame front positions that from ignition point to the highest
point of the ame front and the ame propagation velocities with
time after ignition of 100 nm and 30 mm PMMA dust clouds with
different mass densities were shown in Fig. 10. It could be seen that
with time going, the ame fronts of 100 nm PMMA dust clouds with

107

different mass densities were all quickly moved upward. At 60 ms


after ignition, the ame fronts of 100 nm PMMA dust clouds with
mass densities of 168 g/m3 and 217 g/m3 were already reached the
upper boundary of the open space. The ame propagation velocities were uctuated in a certain range. With the mass density
increasing, the extent of velocity uctuation became larger. This
might be because that with larger mass density, more particles
participated in the combustion reaction, so that the turbulence
caused by heat transfer and mass transfer between particles was
accelerated, thus induced the velocity uctuation. Another reason
was that the agglomeration effect was enhanced along with the
increasing concentration. The average ame propagation velocities
of 100 nm PMMA dust clouds with mass density of 105 g/m3, 168 g/
m3 and 217 g/m3 were 0.71 m/s, 0.91 m/s and 0.97 m/s, respectively.
This indicated that the ame propagation was accelerated with
mass density increased in the experimental range.
Due to the different propagation mechanism of 30 mm PMMA
dust clouds, the ame front positions and ame front propagation
velocities exhibited a different change tendency, as shown in Fig
10(c,d). The distance of ame fronts from the ignition point
showed the tendency of discontinuous propagation process of
30 mm PMMA dust clouds. The ame propagation velocities of
30 mm PMMA dust clouds were uctuated due to a discontinuous
propagation type and the turbulence caused by heat transfer and
mass transfer between particles. The ame velocity uctuation of
170 g/m3 dust cloud was most violent. The average ame propagation velocities of 30 mm PMMA dust clouds with mass density of
72 g/m3, 138 g/m3 and 170 g/m3 were 0.31 m/s, 0.41 m/s and
0.93 m/s, respectively, which revealed that the average ame
propagation was accelerated with mass density increased in the
experimental range.
3.3. Flame structures and propagation mechanisms
The ame propagation mechanisms through combustible dust
clouds are essential for better understanding of dust explosions. By

Fig. 8. Flame propagations of 100 nm PMMA dust clouds with mass densities of 105 g/m3, 168 g/m3 and 217 g/m3.

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X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

Fig. 9. Flame propagations of 30 mm PMMA dust clouds with mass densities of 72 g/m3, 138 g/m3 and 170 g/m3.

premixed ame. In addition, it could be speculated that smaller


particles maintained the leading part of propagating ame and
governed the combustion process.
To quantify the effect of particle size on dust reactivity in the
PMMA dust explosion, the dimensionless characteristic number Bi
was discussed.
The Biot number (Bi) is a measure of internal heat conduction
time with respect to external heat transfer time. External heat
transfer to the combustion of PMMA particles mainly depended on
heat convection and radiation. So Bi could be dened as (Benedetto
et al., 2010; Blasi, 1999):

Bi


hc Lc Qr Lc 1 

Lc hc sDTi3
l
lDTi l

(4)

where was the emissivity, s was the StefaneBoltzmann constant,


l was the thermal conductivity, DTi was the temperature difference
between particle and surrounding gas, hc was the heat transfer
coefcient, and Lc was the particle characteristic length.
The heat transfer coefcient hc could be dened as:

hc

lNu
Lc

(5)

where Nu was the Nusselt number.


The formula for the Nusselt number was:
1

Nu 2 0:6Re 2 Pr

using the high-speed camera with the microscopic lens, the ame
structures were more clearly observed. Flame propagation through
100 nm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 168 g/m3 was
depicted in Fig. 11(a), and the corresponding ame structure was
illustrated in Fig. 11(b). After ignition by the electrical spark, the
ame kernel was formed. The adjacent suspended particles
absorbed the released heat and were pyrolyzed and decomposed to
form the combustible gas mixture. The continuous ame was
developed. The glowing particles were soot particles produced in
the combustion reaction. Then the particles in the preheated zone
were heated for the subsequent oxidation reaction.
It is important to point out that there were a number of luminous spot ames in the combustion zone. These luminous spot
ames might be the agglomerates existed in 100 nm PMMA dust
clouds. The combustion reaction rst occurred on the surface of the
agglomerates where the pyrolysis gases were available. As the
combustion proceeding, the agglomerates were completely pyrolyzed and gasied with more heat transfer, and the ame then
exhibited homogenous and smooth structure. This result indicated
that the smaller particles played an important role in the ame
propagation.
Flame propagation and structure through 30 mm PMMA dust
cloud with mass density of 138 g/m3 were shown in Fig. 12, which
indicated an obvious different propagation type compared with
that of 100 nm PMMA dust cloud. The ame propagating through
30 mm PMMA particles formed a complicated structure.
After ignition by the electrical spark, the particles around the
electrodes were rapidly pyrolyzed and reacted with oxygen to
release the heat. At the same time, the particles in the preheat zone
were heated through thermal radiation and heat conduction. As the
direct ame photographs showed that the ame propagated to one
area, developed, and then to another area. As the combustion
proceeded, clusters of ames were formed where the gaseous pyrolyzate of dust particles was available, then combined and propagated as the ame propagating outward. The propagation of such
clusters of ame was a diffusion ame accompanying the local

(6)

where Re was the Reynolds number, and Pr was the Prandtl


number.
In the experiments, both 100 nm and 30 mm PMMA particles
were in regular spherical shape, so the particle characteristic length
Lc was:

X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

109

Fig. 10. Flame front positions from ignition point and ame propagation velocities with time after ignition of 100 nm and 30 mm PMMA dust clouds with different mass densities.

LC D

(7)

where D was the diameter of PMMA dust particles.


So the Biot number could be calculated as:
1

Bi 2 0:6Re 2 Pr

DsDTi3
l

was similar to that of a premixed gas explosion coupled with the


solid surface combustion. For 30 mm PMMA particles, the ame was
characterized by clusters of ames and irregular ame front. The
ame rstly propagated towards the smaller particles nearby, and
until these smaller particles were pyrolyzed, the local premixed
ame was formed and developed to heat the adjacent larger particles, thus establishing the diffusion ame.

(8)

In the present case, the size distribution of 30 mm PMMA particles was consistent satisfactorily with the value provided while
the size distribution of 100 nm PMMA particles was obviously
larger than the provided value due to the serious agglomeration
effect. But the Sauter diameter of 100 nm PMMA particles was still
much smaller than that of 30 mm PMMA particles, which indicated
that the Biot number of 100 nm PMMA particles was smaller than
that of 30 mm PMMA particles. So for 100 nm PMMA particles, the
particle size was smaller enough so that the heating and pyrolysis
steps were very fast, leading to gas combustion controlling the dust
explosion. But for 30 mm PMMA particles, other phenomena such as
pyrolysis and particle heating controlled the explosion process.
The ame structures of PMMA dust clouds with different
diameter scales could be categorized into two regimes: for 100 nm
PMMA particles, the ame was characterized by a regular spherical
shape and spatially continuous combustion structure combined
with numerous luminous spot ames which corresponding to the
burning of the agglomerates. The ame propagation mechanism

4. Conclusions
Flame propagation behaviors of 100 nm and 30 mm PMMA dust
explosions were experimentally studied in the open-space dust
explosion apparatus. High-speed cameras with normal and
microscopic lenses were used to record the combustion behaviors
and ame microstructures. The conclusions obtained were as
follows:
1) For 100 nm PMMA dust clouds, the ames grew symmetrically
and propagated spherically. Whereas for 30 mm PMMA dust
clouds, clusters of ames were formed and propagated in the
local regions where the gaseous pyrolyzate of dust particles was
available with the irregular ame front.
2) The ame luminous intensities of 100 nm PMMA dust clouds
were stronger than those of 30 mm PMMA dust clouds due to the
faster reaction with oxygen.
3) Increasing the mass density from 105 g/m3 to 217 g/m3 for
100 nm PMMA particles, and from 72 g/m3 to 170 g/m3 for

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X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

Fig. 11. Flame propagation and structure through 100 nm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 168 g/m3.

Fig. 12. Flame propagation and structure of 30 mm PMMA dust cloud with mass density of 138 g/m3.

30 mm PMMA particles, the ame luminous intensity and the


average ame propagation velocity were enhanced. The ame
front became more irregular for 30 mm PMMA dust clouds.

4) For 100 nm PMMA particles, the ame propagation mechanism


was similar to that of a premixed gas explosion coupled with the
solid surface combustion. For 30 mm PMMA particles, the ame

X. Zhang et al. / Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 40 (2016) 101e111

was composed of the diffusion ame accompanying the local


premixed ame. It could be speculated that smaller particles
maintained the leading part of propagating ame and governed
the combustion process.
Acknowledgment
The authors appreciate the nancial support by the National
Natural Science Foundation of China (NO. 51406023), Project funded by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (NO. 2014M560213)
and the open fund of State Key Laboratory of Fire Science (NO.
HZ2015-KF01). The authors also thank Soken Chemical Co., Ltd. of
Japan Ministry for providing the experimental PMMA particles.
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