Microgravity (drop towers, parabolic flights, sounding rockets and space stations) are particularly relevant to combustion problems given that they show high-density gradients and in many cases weak forced convection. For some configurations where buoyancy forces result in complex flow fields, microgravity leads to ideal conditions that correspond closely to canonical problems, e.g., combustion of a spherical droplet in a far-field still atmosphere, Emmons' problem for flame spreading over a solid flat plate, deflagration waves, etc. A comprehensive chronological review on the many combustion studies in microgravity was written first by Law and Faeth (1994) and then by F.A. Williams (1995). Later on, new recommendations for research directions have been delivered. In France, research has been managed and supported by CNES and CNRS since the creation of the microgravity research group in 1992. At this time, microgravity research and future activities contemplated the following:
– Droplets: the “D2 law” has been well verified and high-pressure behavior of droplet combustion has been assessed. The studies must be extended in two main directions: vaporization in mixtures near the critical line and collective effects in dense sprays.
– Flame spread: experiments observed blue flames governed by diffusion that are in accordance with Emmons' theory. Convection-dominated flames showed significant departures from the theory. Some theoretical assumptions appeared controversial and it was noted that radiation effects must be considered, especially when regarding the role of soot production in quenching.
– Heterogeneous flames: two studies are in progress, one in Poitiers and the other in Marseilles, about flame/suspension interactions.
– Premixed and triple flames: the knowledge still needs to be complemented. Triple flames must continue to be studied and understanding of “flame balls” still needs to be addressed.