This is my first posting and as such I will briefly go over the topics I will discuss and talk about in the future. I’ve been involved in the renewable energy and other similar sectors for nearly a decade and have made my career’s and businesses in it. There are a lot of misunderstandings in the renewable energy industry and I will be here to clear a lot of them up. Furthermore, I will be providing historical insights, perhaps some tutorials, and some light science lessons. This is my first major posting, and we will learn about fire and combustion and the historical significance of fire, and also a brief synopsis of what fire is and how it works.
In ancient Greek mythos Prometheus gave fire, a power of the Gods, to mankind. The ancients understood and appreciated the importance of fire far more than most do today. People take the power of combustion for granted. Indeed, to this day combustion is largely what keeps our electric grids operational, our cars and trucks running, and our homes heated. And much more.
And so that begets the question, what is combustion? Fire is a very specific type of oxidation-reduction reaction. Electrons are transferred from atom to atom at a high rate. In the case of combustion, its a rapid exothermic oxidation wave, of which there are two types. Deflagration and Detonation. Detonation is a supersonic oxidation wave where the combustibles remain at a constant volume. Deflagration is a subsonic oxidation wave. Our focus from here on will mostly pertain the deflagration. Lets look at a common campfire. One of the common misconceptions is that the wood burns. The fact is, however, that solids and liquids even though they can combust under very specific and rare circumstances, they can not sustain a deflagration wave. What is actually happening is a process called thermal decomposition, better known as gasification or vaporization. In the case of wood, the solids are breaking down via thermolysis into a gas, and then the gas can sustain a deflagration wave (Sidenote: fire contains small trace amounts of plasma, generally less than 1%). In the case of gasoline, only gasoline vapors combust. I can and have taken a mason jar of gasoline with a stong fan blowing the vapors off, and thrown a match in the jar of gasoline. It puts the match out just like water. Because only the vapors can sustain a deflagration wave. (I do not recommend you try this, variables can make this dangerous). Some examples of solids combusting is steel wool and a battery/match. But again, this is not fire. Its not a deflagration wave. One last thing before I move on, volatility is a materials tendency to vaporize. This is important for any aspiring pyrolytic engineers.
Fire has been used by mankind to do work since the dawn of civilization. The worlds first steam engine was invented by the ancient Greek Hero, in the form of the Aeolipile. It was considered a novelty toy and the full potential of Hero’s discovery was not utilized until the industrial revolution.
For the sake of time I will leave off here for now. Next week I will delve further into the historical significance of energy.