News, features & press releases
Current, future, past missions & launch dates
News, features & press releases
News, features & press releases
News, features & press releases


CFI Project Status

• 23 September, 2014 – Engineering team captures images of a cool flame in the laboratory using the new CFI intensified camera.

• 11 August, 2014 – CFI receives official authorization from NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) to advance to the hardware development phase of the project.

• 28 July 2014 – A recent Journal of Microgravity Science and Technology article entitled “Droplet Combustion Experiments Aboard the International Space Station” was published by the FLEX experiment science team. The article details the progress of FLEX experiments to date using the GRC managed CIR rack on-board the ISS, and includes background on the discovery of the cool flame mode of combustion and NASA’s plans to learn more about this phenomena in the Cool Flames Investigation (CFI) project. Many tech savy e-journals and online news agencies have picked up on the story and are generating significant publicity and public interest in the CFI experiment. See the press release here: Researchers discover cool-burning flames in space that could lead to better engines here on earth.

image003• 18 July 2014 – Video-scope International delivers the engineering model and lens for the CFI intensified camera that will be used to image cool flames on-board the CIR rack of the ISS. The engineering team is working to characterize the new camera, develop the instruction set that will be used to command it, and design the packaging needed to interface it with the CIR rack.

• 11 July 2014 – The CFI project scientists have devised a method to generate cool flames in the laboratory with a heated metal sphere held over evaporating Di-Ethyl Ether. This test method will allow the CFI engineering team to replicate certain aspects of the space flight test on the ground in order to test and verify the capabilities of the new CIR intensified camera before flight.


• 5-6 May, 2014 – The CFI SCR/RDR has been conducted at the John Glenn Research Center.


• April 25, 2014 – The CFI STD has delivered the CFI Science Requirements Document (SRD) in preparation for the Science Concept Review (SCR) / Requirements Definition Review (RDR).

• April 15, 2014 – The CFI Science Concept Review (SCR) / Requirements Definition Review (RDR) (now 5-6 May) has been formally approved and the following science panel members have been appointed.

Dr. Charles Westbrook                 Lawrence Livermore National Lab
Prof. Richard Yetter                       Penn State University
Dr. Howard Pearlman                   Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc.

• February 12, 2014 – The CFI SDT has delivered a science experiment proposal to NASA SLPS outlining a proposed set of science objecties and necessary facility diagnostics. NASA has accepted the science proposal, tentatively authorized a 29 April Science Concept Review (SCR), and directed the SDT to begin development of the Science Requirements Document (SRD).

• December 11, 2013 – CFI Science Definition Team (SDT) members are appointed and receive their charter from NASA SLPS. The team consists of international experts in the fields of hydrocarbon combustion kinetics and droplet combustion, who have had significant success in previous microgravity programs. The team will develop a science proposal to NASA SLPS to define the scope for the proposed experiment.

• November 2013 – The initial project team selected and planning meetings are conducted to define the CFI programmatic scope and schedule based on CIR utilization and budget.

• May 2013 – NASA SLPS authorizes funds for a new ISS Physical Sciences research experiment (CFI) at GRC to investigate the cool flames phenomena on-board CIR/MDCA to begin in FY14.


Science Background

In recent ISS experiments (FLEX), a cool flame mode of burning was observed to develop after radiative extinction of a burning droplet. This result was not predicted by computational models (based on high temperature chemistry) nor expected based on prior experimental work. This unique burning behavior highlights the need to better understand both low and intermediate temperature fuel chemistry and its affect on droplet combustion, having implications for spray combustion and fire safety. This unexpected observation has attracted international interest from researchers in academia, industry, and government laboratories.


Science Application

The Cool Flame Investigation (CFI) offers a unique opportunity to study the combustion of large alkane fuel droplets that exhibit hot ignition followed by radiative extinction and continued burning by low‐temperature combustion (cool flame chemistry) in the presence of heat loss. A basic understanding of cool flames is important for understanding ignition phenomena of practical fuels and fuel additives. Cool flames play a key role in the development and selection of new fuels and the design of advanced engines such as clean, high-efficiency Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engines.

The research will also help combustion chemists to develop new computational models to compute combustion performance in for many practical applications on earth, including an understanding of how cool flame reactivity determines octane and cetane number for fuels in spark ignition and diesel engines.

Understanding low temperature hydrocarbon chemistry is also very important for fire safety concerns in space.

For more background on cool flames, see “Cool Flames – Perspectives on their Importance in Combustion Systems”.


Science Objectives

1. Further understanding of the combustion characteristics of normal alkanes, particularly in the low temperature region by conducting droplet combustion experiments in low gravity with fuels that supports cool ame burning and extinction.

2. Investigate the low temperature burning behavior of droplets consisting of pure fuels and bio-fuel constituents (and mixtures of them), as well as surrogate reference fuels to determine the relationship between the cool flame burning characteristics in microgravity droplet combustion and the octane/cetane behavior of the fuel.

3. Explore the low temperature chemistry of alkanes further by mixing additives to the fuel that disrupt the low temperature chemical pathways.

For more information on the CFI Science Background and Requirements, see the CFI Science Requirements Document (SRD).


Development Approach

Milestones, pics of MDCA/ISS, etc. (overview chart)


Related Publications



Project Management:

CFI Project Team

Science Defintion Team
Prof. Forman Williams, University of California, San Diego
Prof. Fred Dryer , Princeton University
Prof. Tanvir Farouk, University of South Carolina
Dr. Vedha Nayagam, Case Western University
Dr. Dan Dietrich, NASA John H. Glenn Research Center

Engineering Team (ZIN Technologies, Inc).
Marty O’Toole, Engineering Manager
Jess Robbins, Mechanical Engineering Lead
Joe Samrani, Electrical Engineering Lead
Steve Lawn, Diagnostic Engineering Lead
Jim Birchenough, FCF Engineering Lead

Glenn Research Center Project Staff
Andrew Suttles, Project Manager
Dan Dietrich, Project Scientist
Vedha Nayagam, Staff Scientist