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Strobes: An oscillatory combustion

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Author: Corbel, J.M.L. · Lingen, J.N.J. van · Zevenbergen, J.F. · Gijzeman, O.L.J. · Meijerink, A.
Source:Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 16, 116, 4967-4975
Identifier: 460461
doi: doi:10.1021/jp300573k
Keywords: 20th century · Ammonium perchlorates · Barium sulfate · Charge coupled device cameras (CCD) · Chemical process · Combustion fronts · Intermediate specie · Magnalium · Oscillatory combustion · Oscillatory fashion · Physical process · Solid combustion · Barium · Sulfur compounds · Combustion · Defence Research · Defence, Safety and Security · Fluid Mechanics Chemistry & Energetics · EM - Energetic Materials · TS - Technical Sciences


Strobe compositions belong to the class of solid combustions. They are mixtures of powdered ingredients. When ignited, the combustion front evolves in an oscillatory fashion, and flashes of light are produced by intermittence. They have fascinated many scientists since their discovery at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the chemical and physical processes involved in this curious oscillatory combustion remain unknown. Several theories have been proposed: One claims that two different reactions occur: one during the slow dark phase and another during the fast flash phase. The alternation between the phases is ascribed to heat variations. Other theories suggest that the formation of intermediate species during the dark phase and the change of phase are caused by variations in their concentration. A ternary strobe composition with ammonium perchlorate, magnalium, and barium sulfate is analyzed. The role of barium sulfate is studied by replacing it by other metal sulfates that have different physical properties (melting points), and the burning of the compositions is recorded with a high-speed camera and a spectrometer coupled with a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera. Experimental results show noticeable differences in the physical and chemical processes involved in the strobe reactions. © 2012 American Chemical Society.