Surface tension effects during low-Reynolds-number methanol droplet combustion

Vasudevan Raghavan, Daniel N. Pope, Damon Howard, George Gogos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


A numerical investigation of methanol droplet combustion in a zero-gravity, low-pressure, and low-temperature environment is presented. Simulations have been carried out using a predictive, transient, and axisymmetric model, which includes droplet heating, liquid-phase circulation, and water absorption. A low initial Reynolds number ( Re0 = 0.01) is used to impose a weak gas-phase convective flow, introducing a deviation from spherical symmetry. The resulting weak liquid-phase circulation is greatly enhanced due to surface tension effects, which create a complex, time-varying, multicellular flow pattern within the liquid droplet. The complex flow pattern, which results in nearly perfect mixing, causes increased water absorption within the droplet, leading to larger extinction diameters. It is shown that, for combustion of a 0.43-mm droplet in a nearly quiescent environment ( Re0 = 0.01 ) composed of dry air, the extinction diameter is 0.11 mm when surface tension effects are included, and 0.054 mm when surface tension effects are neglected. Experimental work available in the literature for a 0.43-mm droplet reported extinction diameters in the range of 0.16 to 0.19 mm. Results for combustion in a nearly quiescent environment ( Re0 = 0.01 ) with varying initial droplet diameters (0.16 to 1.72 mm) show that including the effect of surface tension results in approximately linear variation of the extinction diameter with the initial droplet diameter, which is in agreement with theoretical predictions and experimental measurements. In addition, surface tension effects are shown to be important even at initial Reynolds numbers as high as 5.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-807
Number of pages17
JournalCombustion and Flame
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by NASA EPSCoR under Grant NCC5-572. Computational resources were provided by the Thermal-Fluids computational facility and the Research Computing Facility at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


  • Droplet combustion
  • Extinction
  • Methanol
  • Surface tension
  • Water absorption


Dive into the research topics of 'Surface tension effects during low-Reynolds-number methanol droplet combustion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this