Downward Flame Spread over PMMA Spheres

David Morrisset, Rory M. Hadden, Angus Law, Jose Torero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Experiments were conducted to measure downward flame spread over PMMA spheres, and an underpinning theoretical basis was developed to explain the relevant mechanisms governing flame spread over spherical geometries. Flame spread over a sphere was classified into two distinct regimes, that being spread over the upper and lower hemispheres. Experiments were conducted using cast PMMA spheres 40 and 50 mm in diameter. Samples were ignited at the top of the sphere and the progression of the flame front was determined using video analysis. The time resolved flame spread rate was found to increase nearly linearly in time while the flame spread across the upper hemisphere of the sample (at rates ranging from approximately 2.0-3.5 mm/min). Flame spread on the lower hemisphere was observed to accelerate nonlinearly reaching instantaneous flame spread rates greater than 15 mm/min. The flame spread rates were found to be unsteady (i.e., continuously increasing) throughout each experiment. A Stokes flow solution was found to adequately characterize the opposed flame spread rate over the upper hemisphere with respect to the induced buoyant flow. Flame spread rates in the lower hemisphere were found to be controlled by a combination of increasing velocity of the ambient flow and increased heat transfer through the interior of the solid. Flame spread rates for each diameter tested were normalized and presented as a function of the relative angle of inclination at the flame front, 𝜃. Thus, the two regimes of flame spread identified in this work are largely independent across sphere size for the diameters used in this study. The study of flame spread over spheres provides a unique condition to observe the transition from spread dictated by a well-defined flow condition to one in which heat transfer effects through the solid become increasingly significant.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Combustion Institute
Early online date9 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Nov 2022


  • Flame Spread
  • Opposed Flow
  • Downward Spread
  • sphere
  • Buoyant Flow


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