Working in partnership with Ali Rangwala, professor of fire protection engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Akkerman was awarded a grant from the Alpha Foundation in 2014 to create a knowledgebase and computational model capable of quantifying the probability and associated hazards of spontaneous ignition, fire and explosion. Akkerman and Rangwala went on to develop the Dust and Gas Explosion Model, or D-GEM, a joint analytical and computational platform quantifying mining fire hazards, namely, the probability of spontaneous ignition, the evolution of a flame front and the likelihood of a deflagration-to-detonation transition in the presence of combustible dust.
The computational backbone for D-GEM is a fully compressible, finite-volume fluid mechanics code, which is used for solving for the set of hydrodynamics and combustion equations.
“The solver is robust, adapted for parallel computations and has been successfully utilized for solving numerous combustion and aero-acoustic problems,” said Akkerman. “As an analytic component of the project, a predictive scenario of premixed flame front evolution within an accidental fire has been prescribed, quantitatively, with the key stages of the flame evolution been scrutinized and the situation of a methane-air explosion in a mining passage as the primary application.”
Despite the success of the previous project, the outcomes of the research were academic to some extent because a set of parameters from real coal mines remained unknown. The new award will allow the research team to quantify these unknown parameters and then further test an upgraded D-GEM.
“As with any new approach, there is a gap between the theoretical model and real coal mine accidents,” Akkerman said. “The aim of this project is to upgrade and adjust the D-GEM model to real applications and then validate the updated model by means of in-situ experiments in WPI’s Combustion Laboratory. We will also update the model based on simulations and experimental data available in the literature.”
The Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health is a private foundation with the mission to improve mine safety and health through funding research and development projects at qualified academic institutions and other not-for-profit organizations.
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