Combustion, or burning, is a high-temperature exothermic redox chemical reaction between a fuel (the reductant) and an oxidant, usually atmospheric oxygen, that produces oxidized, often gaseous products, in a mixture termed as smoke. Combustion does not always result in fire, because a flame is only visible when substances undergoing combustion vaporize, but when it does, a flame is a characteristic indicator of the reaction. While the activation energy must be overcome to initiate combustion (e.g., using a lit match to light a fire), the heat from a flame may provide enough energy to make the reaction self-sustaining.
The term 'micro' gravity refers to a gravitational state that is 'low' (i.e., 'micro' in the sense of 'small' and not necessarily a millionth of Earth's normal gravity) such that the influence of buoyancy on physical processes may be considered small relative to other flow processes that would be present at normal gravity. In such an environment, the thermal and flow transport dynamics can behave quite differently than in normal gravity conditions (e.g., a candle's flame takes the shape of a sphere.). Microgravity combustion research contributes to the understanding of a wide variety of aspects that are relevant to both the environment of a spacecraft (e.g., fire dynamics relevant to crew safety on the International Space Station) and terrestrial (Earth-based) conditions (e.g., droplet combustion dynamics to assist developing new fuel blends for improved combustion, materials fabrication processes, thermal management of electronic systems, multiphase flow boiling dynamics, and many others).
Schematic of the flame-assisted printing device (a) and process (b) to deposit large thin film on the substrate. c Optical images of the deposited spot and line by the FAP process 153554b96e