Flame propagation within confined, stratified gaseous environments were investigated experimentally. The diluents nitrogen and helium were used in turn to overlay initially combustible methane-air or hydrogen-air mixtures. Gas stratification was achieved by allowing the two initially homogeneous gases to interdiffuse for a certain period of time at constant temperature and pressure within a long, vertical, smooth, closed, circular tube. Upward flame propagation was examined following spark ignition while the tube was closed at the top but open at the bottom. Near-extinction flame speeds, lower than those predicted according to Davies and Taylor (1950), were obtained with helium dilution. Moreover, estimated reactant concentrations at the observed location of flame extinction indicated, in specific instances, that mixture stratification appears to slightly enhance locally the lean flammability limit. Nonuniform, stratified combustible gaseous mixtures and flame propagation within such mixtures are found in many situations, including in numerous technical applications, as well as in various potentially hazardous circumstances. The leakage of a fuel from storage tanks or pipelines, the formation of layered combustible mixtures within rooms, corridors, or elevator shafts of buildings, the formation of gas pockets in coal mine galleries, and the inerting of flammable mixtures through diluent gas addition are some examples. Some relevant information about the stratification process and the flame propagation characteristics in these specific circumstances has already been reported in the literature by Bakke and Leach (1962), James and Purdy (1962), Girard et al. (1979), Karim and Lam (1986) and Karim et al. (1987). This investigation considers some aspects of flame propagation and mass transfer within confined, stratified gaseous environment. The diluents nitrogen and helium were used in turn to overlay initially combustible methane-air or hydrogen-air mixtures. Mixture stratification was produced by permitting the two initially homogeneous gaseous systems to interdiffuse at constant temperature within a long, vertical, smooth, closed, circular tube. Only upward flame propagation was examined, as this mode is expected to involve the widest flammability limits and the fastest propagation for both homogeneous and stratified methane-air mixtures when confined in tubes (Liebman et al., 1971).

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