How would gasoline burn in a zero gravity environment?

United States
April 7, 2010 7:14pm CST
My friend and I were discussing (ie arguing) about how a flame would burn in a zero gravity environment, such as the space station. (ignoring the fact that the space station does have artificial gravity.) So, allowing that the gasoline has an air supply and a source of ignition, how do yuo suppose the floating sphere sphere burn? How would the flames behave in zero gravity? Would they burn out in all directions, would it rise in a single flame, or would it sputter out? What is your opinion and reasoning?
2 responses
@petersum (4525)
• United States
10 Apr 10
Heat rises so the flame burns upright as normal. But where is up? Well any object has some kind of gravitation due to its mass, even if we cannot sense it. Plus, we can't get far enough away from Earth to completely escape its gravity. Zero gravity on a space station just isn't zero! Hot air, which guides the flame, will find one position of up which is correct even if we humans can't feel it. Up is of course the opposite of down. The heavier cold air is forced down due to gravity. Voila! A flame is actually an anti-gravity device!
• United States
10 Apr 10
That's what i thought too, but it turns out that the scientists on the space station have actually tested this and since there is no gravity to speak of the whole physics of density gradient (which is what causes the bouyancy of hot air) the exhaust gases would not move away from the candle and it would soon smother itself. This was tested with a candle, which burns bright blue in zero gravity. Completely counter-intuitive, isn't it?
@o0jopak0o (6406)
• Philippines
14 Jun 10
well i think it will cling to its fuel source. But i would like to see an orb of fire floating in air that would be amazing!