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Production of ‘prompt’ nitric oxide and decomposition of hydrocarbons in flames


THE pollutant nitric oxide originates in combustion systems from nitrogen in the air or the fuel. Two processes have been identified whereby atmospheric N2 produces NO. The Zel'dovich1 mechanism has the rate-determining step O+N2→N+NO and is affected by oxygen atoms having concentrations2,3 above those for equilibrium. Fenimore's ‘prompt’ scheme4 is an attack on N2 by some hydrocarbon fragment with a lifetime of several µs in the flame's reaction zone5. Probable6 primary steps are The oxidation of HCN and CN to NO has been discussed elsewhere6,7. We have burnt premixed H2–O2–N2 flames and measured the ‘prompt’ NO resulting from trace additions of hydrocarbons to the burner supplies. We found that ‘prompt’ NO yield is proportional to the number of carbon atoms in the hydrocarbon molecule. We consider that the hydrocarbons fragment into species with one carbon atom, in, or close to, the preheating region. Thus formation of ‘prompt’ NO, soot, ions in flames, and CH radiation from hydrocarbons all show related behaviour.

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HAYHURST, A., VINCE, I. Production of ‘prompt’ nitric oxide and decomposition of hydrocarbons in flames. Nature 266, 524–525 (1977).

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