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News, features & press releases
News, features & press releases
News, features & press releases


The FLEX-Italian Combustion Experiment for Green Air will test surrogate fuels as defined by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) within the CIR in the FLEX-2 configuration.  A collaborative agreement between U.S. and Italian scientists from the Italian National Research Council–Istituto Motori will allow collaboration on research into biologically derived fuels (bio-fuels) in an investigation into new, green energy sources.  Researchers from the NRC–Istituto Motori have identified the fuels to be used as 50–50 mixtures of n-heptane/ethanol and 50–50 n-hexanol/n-decane.

The intent of ICE-GA is to investigate the ignition and combustion of a single droplet of a surrogate bio-fuel in a quiescent microgravity environment.  The research will dispense, deploy and ignite single droplets and study the droplet and flame regression histories, in a well-controlled (and variable) ambient environment.  The results of the research will provide benchmark data that will assist in the development and validation of models of bio-fuel combustion.  Phenomena such as finite-rate gas-phase chemistry, multicomponent-species gas- and liquid-phase transport processes, production of soot and other pollutants, phase-change processes, liquid-phase species separation and fluid motion, and radiation and conductive energy transfer, are all present in microgravity droplet combustion.  These examples determine, to varying degrees, the performance of a practical combustor.  The metrics, for comparison, include burning rate, burning time, soot aggregate size, extinction diameter, flame diameter, and flame luminosity.

ICE-GA is planned to operate during ISS Increments 35-36, June – November 2013.  Italian astronaut, Luca Parmitano, will support the experiment while he is on-board ISS during this same timeframe.

There is one experiment; it’s called “ICE Green Air.” And the name already gives an idea of what it’s going to be; it’s a combustion experiment for less polluting kind of combusting fuels. So right now everywhere in the world there is a lot of research on ecology-friendly fuel and biofuels. So on the space station we have this unique environment where we can study combustion in one dimension only without the effect of gravity affecting the combustion. So this experiment which I happen also to be Italian so I’m particularly happy to talk about it and to take part in it. We’ll study biofuels; we’ll study combustion in order to understand how to familiarize, to make it better so that results of combustion which normally has toxic substances, how to make them either disappear or reduce them to the minimum. So the application for this is not only for space fuels, but also on the ground to make combustion more efficient and less polluting, and so just to make it a better environment for future generations.

Science Overview