Experimental and theoretical study of PAH and incipient soot formation in laminar flames

  • Zepeng Li

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Emissions of soot and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from incomplete burning of hydrocarbon fuels pose a great threat to the environment and human health. To reduce such emissions, a comprehensive understanding of their evolution process is essential. In this work, a series of research studies were conducted to evaluate sooting tendencies and to experimentally and theoretically develop PAH mechanisms. The sooting tendencies of oxygenated fuels were quantitively investigated in counterflow diffusion flames. Sooting limits are described by critical fuel and oxygen mole fractions, measured with a laser scattering technique. The addition of dimethyl ether displays non-monotonic behavior on sooting tendencies at elevated pressures, which is attributed to the chemical effect from kinetic simulations. The tendency of incipient soot formation of other oxygenated fuels (e.g., alcohol, acid, ether, ketone, and carbonate ester) was also assessed, using a similar approach. As the precursor of soot, PAH measurement using laser induced fluoresecnce was implemented to track the evolution processes from PAHs to incipient soot. Developing a PAH mechanism is essential to the understanding of soot formation; however, PAH formation and its growth process are not well understood. Based on previous research, PAHs with 5-membered rings are abundant in flames. Therefore, the growth of PAHs with 5-membered rings was investigated, using acenaphthylene (A2R5) as the example. The density functional theory (DFT) and the transition state theory (TST) were adopted to calculate potential energy surfaces and reaction rate coefficients. The existence of 5-membered rings appreciably impacts PAH production by facilitating the formation of planar PAHs with C2H substitution, thereby improving existing PAH mechanisms. In PAH mechanisms, the thermochemistry properties are not all calculated, but are hypothesized to be equal to those of a similar structure. The simulation accuracy of the hypothesis is explored here by discussing the sensitivity of the thermochemistry parameters in flame simulations. The group additivity method utilizing THERM codes is used to calculate thermochemistry properties. PAH loading affects the sensitivity of thermochemistry properties to both flame temperature and product yields. These results show that either accurate thermochemistry properties, or reverse reaction rates should be provided in the mechanism to improve simulation accuracy.
Date of AwardApr 2021
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorWilliam Roberts (Supervisor)


  • soot
  • PAH
  • laser diagnostics
  • sooting tendency
  • quantum chemistry
  • laminar flame

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