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Spark Ignition Energy Measurements in Jet A

Shepherd, Joseph E. and Krok, J. Christopher and Lee, Julian J. (2000) Spark Ignition Energy Measurements in Jet A. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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Experiments have been carried out to measure the spark ignition energy of Jet A vapor in air. A range of ignition energies from 1 mJ to 100 J was examined in these tests. The test method was validated by first measuring ignition energies for lean mixtures of the fuels hexane (C6H6) and propane (C3H8) in air at normal temperature (295 K) and pressure (1 atm). These results agree with existing data and provide new results for compositions between the lean flame limit and stoichiometric mixtures. Jet A (from LAX, flashpoint 45–48 [degress] C) vapor mixtures with air have been tested at temperatures between 30 and 60 [degrees] C at two fuel mass loadings, 3 and 200 kg/m3, in an explosion test vessel with a volume of 1.8 liter. Tests at 40, 50, and 60 [degrees] C have been performed at a mass loading of 3 kg/m3 in an 1180-liter vessel. Experiments with Jet A have been carried out with initial conditions of 0.585 bar pressure to simulate altitude conditions appropriate to the TWA 800 explosion. Ignition energies and peak pressures vary strongly as a function of initial temperature, but are a weak function of mass loading. The minimum ignition energy varies from less than 1 mJ at 60 [degrees] C to over 100 J at 30 [degrees] C. At temperatures less than 30 [degrees] C, ignition was not possible with 100 J or even a neon sign transformer (continuous discharge). The peak pressure between 40 and 55 [degrees] C was approximately 4 bar. Peak pressures in the 1180-liter vessel were slightly lower and the ignition energy was higher than in the 1.8-liter vessel. The following conclusions were reached relative to the TWA 800 crash: (a) spark ignition sources with energies between 5 mJ and 1 J are sufficient to ignite Jet A vapor, resulting in a propagating flame; (b) the peak pressure rise was between 1.5 and 4 bar (20 and 60 psi). (c) a thermal ignition source consisting of a hot filament created by discharging electrical energy into a metal wire is also sufficient to ignite Jet A vapor, resulting in a propagating flame; (d) laminar burning speeds are between 15 and 45 cm/s; and (e) the limited amount of fuel available in the CWT (about 50 gal) did not significantly increase the flammability limit. The rapid decrease in spark ignition energy with increasing temperature demonstrates that hot fuel tanks are significantly more hazardous than cool ones with respect to spark ignition sources. A systematic effort is now needed in order to utilize these results and apply spark ignition energy measurements to future analyses of fuel tank flammability. Some key issues that need to be addressed in future testing are: (a) effect of flashpoint on the ignition energy-temperature relationship; (b) ignition energy vs. temperature as a function of altitude; (c) effect of fuel weathering on ignition energy; and (d) the effect of ignition source type on ignition limits.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Technical Report)
Additional Information:Explosion Dynamics Laboratory Report FM97-9 Prepared for and supported by the National Transportation Safety Board Under Order NTSB12-97-SP-0127. Julian Lee was partially supported by a fellowship from FCAR of Quebec, Canada. Uli Pfahl and Oliver Kunz assisted on some ignition experiments.
Group:Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories (Fluid Mechanics)
Record Number:CaltechGALCITFM:1997.009
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Usage Policy:You are granted permission for individual, educational, research and non-commercial reproduction, distribution, display and performance of this work in any format.
ID Code:25825
Deposited By: Imported from CaltechGALCITFM
Deposited On:29 Jun 2005
Last Modified:25 Feb 2014 21:44

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