An oxidation model for carbon surfaces is developed to predict ablation rates for carbon heat shields used in hypersonic vehicles. Unlike existing empirical models, the approach used here was to probe gas-surface interactions individually and then based on an understanding of the relevant fundamental processes, build a predictive model that would be accurate over a wide range of pressures and temperatures, and even microstructures. Initially, molecular dynamics was used to understand the oxidation processes on the surface. The molecular dynamics simulations were compared to molecular beam experiments and good qualitative agreement was observed. The simulations reproduced cylindrical pitting observed in the experiments where oxidation was rapid and primarily occurred around a defect. However, the studies were limited to small systems at low temperatures and could simulate time scales only of the order of nanoseconds. Molecular beam experiments at high surface temperature indicated that a majority of surface reaction products were produced through thermal mechanisms. Since the reactions were thermal, they occurred over long time scales which were computationally prohibitive for molecular dynamics to simulate. The experiments provided detailed dynamical data on the scattering of O, O2, CO, and CO2 and it was found that the data from molecular beam experiments could be used directly to build a model. The data was initially used to deduce surface reaction probabilities at 800 K. The reaction probabilities were then incorporated into the direct simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method. Simulations were performed where the microstructure was resolved and dissociated oxygen convected and diffused towards it. For a gas-surface temperature of 800 K, it was found that despite CO being the dominant surface reaction product, a gas-phase reaction forms significant CO2 within the microstructure region. It was also found that surface area did not play any role in concentration of reaction products because the reaction probabilities were in the diffusion dominant regime. The molecular beam data at different surface temperatures was then used to build a finite rate model. Each reaction mechanism and all rate parameters of the new model were determined individually based on the molecular beam data. Despite the experiments being performed at near vacuum conditions, the finite rate model developed using the data could be used at pressures and temperatures relevant to hypersonic conditions. The new model was implemented in a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) solver and flow over a hypersonic vehicle was simulated. The new model predicted similar overall mass loss rates compared to existing models, however, the individual species production rates were completely different. The most notable difference was that the new model (based on molecular beam data) predicts CO as the oxidation reaction product with virtually no CO2 production, whereas existing models predict the exact opposite trend. CO being the dominant oxidation product is consistent with recent high enthalpy wind tunnel experiments. The discovery that measurements taken in molecular beam facilities are able to determine individual reaction mechanisms, including dependence on surface coverage, opens up an entirely new way of constructing ablation models.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2016. Major: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics. Advisor: Thomas Schwartzentruber. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 124 pages.
Predictive Finite Rate Model for Oxygen-Carbon Interactions at High Temperature.
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