Processes defining smouldering combustion: Integrated review and synthesis

Torero, José L.; Gerhard, Jason I.; Martins, Marcio F.; Zanoni, Marco A.B.; Rashwan, Tarek L. and Brown, Joshua K. (2020). Processes defining smouldering combustion: Integrated review and synthesis. Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, 81, article no. 100869.



Smouldering combustion is an important and complex phenomenon that is central to a wide range of problems (hazards) and solutions (applications). A rich history of research in the context of fire safety has yet to be integrated with the more recent, rapidly growing body of work in engineered smouldering solutions. The variety of disciplines, materials involved, and perspectives on smouldering have resulted in a lack of unity in the expression of key concepts, terminology used, interpretation of results, and conclusions extracted. This review brings together theoretical, experimental, and modelling studies across both fire safety and applied smouldering research to produce a unified conceptual understanding of smouldering combustion. The review includes (i) an overview of the fundamental processes with a synthesis of nomenclature to generate a consistent set of terms for these fundamental processes, (ii) a distillation of ignition, extinction, and transition to flaming research, (iii) a review of the temporal and spatial distribution of heat and mass transfer processes as well as their solution using analytical and numerical methods, (iv) an overview of smouldering emissions and emission treatment systems, and (v) a summary of key gaps and opportunities for future research. Beyond merely review, a new conceptual model is provided that articulates similarities and critical differences between the two main smouldering systems: porous solid fuels and condensed fuels in inert porous media. A quantitative analysis of this conceptual model reveals that the evolution of a smouldering front, while a local process, is determined by a global energy balance that is cumulative in time and has to be integrated in space. As such, the fate of a smouldering reaction can be predicted before the effects of global heat exchange have impacted the reaction. This approach is relevant to all forms of smouldering (including fire safety), but it is particularly important when using smouldering as an engineered process that results in the positive use of the energy released by the smouldering reaction (applied smouldering). In applied smouldering, predicting the fate of a reaction ahead of time allows operators to modify the conditions of the process to maintain self-sustained smouldering propagation and thus fully harness the benefits of the reaction.

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