Role of dimethyl ether in incipient soot formation in premixed ethylene flames

Zepeng Li, Peng Liu, Peng Zhang, Yu Wang, Hong He, Suk Ho Chung, William L. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Emissions of soot particles exert crucial impact on human health and the environment. Previous researches show that a partial replacement of fossil fuels with oxygenated fuels is supposed to reduce soot emission. However, the crucial information of soot size distributions is unclear, although small particles are more dangerous than large particles. In this paper, dimethyl ether (DME) is selected among the oxygenated fuels for the investigation of the doping effect on nascent soot formation. DME was doped in the burner-stabilized rich premixed ethylene/oxygen/argon flames at various mixing ratios. Flame temperature profiles were measured using R-type thermocouples with radiation correction. A scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS) with a sampling system was used to determine particle size distributions (PSDs) of soot-containing combustion products with immediate dilution. Thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA) complemented with elemental analysis (EA) was conducted to detect the chemical properties of formed soot particles. Additionally, species profiles of the experimental flame conditions were provided from simulations. The experimental PSDs showed that DME addition could slow down soot evolution process, while lead to a slight increase in incipient soot with size below 4 nm. When DME added, the production of benzene was suppressed due to the reduced concentrations of acetylene and propargyl, and thus soot nucleation. Meanwhile, soot oxidiation was enhanced because the OH radical and the oxidizability of soot particles are both increased. Considering the slight increase of sub-4 nm soot, the effect of oxygenated-PAHs (OPAH) was emphasized. The production of OPAH suppressed soot surface growth, which leading to the relatively lower consumption of sub-4 nm soot in DME added flames. As a result, DME cannot be simply regarded as a clean fuel due to the enhanced formation of sub-4 nm soot particles. When applying oxygenated fuels into practice, it is necessary to pay more attention to the size distributions of the emitted particles, and conduct appropriate post-processing techniques to reduce the emissions of small particles.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
JournalCombustion and Flame
StatePublished - Apr 3 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): BAS/1/1370-01-01
Acknowledgements: The research was supported by the Clean Combustion Research Center (CCRC) at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) (Grant No. BAS/1/1370-01-01). Yu Wang was supported by National Natural Science of Foundation of China (Grant No. 51976142) and the National Engineering Laboratory for Mobile Source Emission Control Technology (Grant No. NELM2018A11).


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