In this second installment of a 14-part series of monthly articles, The Combustion Institute recognizes the 2017 Distinguished Papers selected from among the scientific papers presented during the 36th International Symposium on Combustion. Congratulations to Ran Sui, John Mantzaras, and Rolf Bombach for winning the DPA in the Novel Combustion Concepts, Technologies, and Systems colloquium.

The authoritative paper, A comparative experimental and numerical investigation of the heterogeneous and homogeneous combustion characteristics of fuel-rich methane mixtures over rhodium and platinum, has significantly progressed fundamental research in Catalytic Partial Oxidation (CPO). A key unresolved issue was whether gas-phase reactions occur inside the catalytic CPO channels, especially at elevated pressures. Typical CPO reactors do not allow for optical access to probe the chemical processes. The scientific team, however, was successful in answering this question, as they possess an optically-accessible catalytic channel reactor, advanced laser-based measurement tools, and also high-fidelity simulation tools. Moreover, the team went a step further by showing that gaseous reactions can be beneficial to the CPO processes.

The outcomes of the paper have an immediate impact on fundamental research, such as changing the state-of-the-art interpretation of the CPO processes. The combustion science community whose research involves CPO will have a better understanding regarding the impact of gaseous chemical reactions on the CPO processes, especially under high pressures. The scientific team has first shown that, contrary to existing premises, gaseous combustion can be present in CPO, especially at elevated pressures. Secondly, gaseous combustion can improve the efficiency of the CPO process. The research provides a new way of designing laboratory-scale CPO reactors, so as to promote the onset of gaseous combustion.

A long-lasting value of the research is a new (and corrected) way of interpreting the physicochemical processes during high-pressure CPO. In the long-term, the chemical and power generation industries could prove beneficiaries of the research, which could allow for better industrial designs of CPO reactors.

The scientific team’s work was conducted exclusively in Switzerland at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), which possesses advanced laser based measuring tools and in-house multidimensional CFD models. Research on the paper’s specific CPO processes started in August 2014 and ended in December 2015.

About 1,300 papers were submitted to the 36th Symposium in 14 combustion science colloquia. Those papers were categorized by teams of colloquium coordinators and co-chairs, and then distributed to approximately 1,000 scientific reviewers. One paper in each discipline was awarded the recognition of Distinguished Paper.

The 14 Distinguished Papers undergo committee review for consideration to receive the Silver Combustion Medal that will be awarded during the 37th International Symposium in Dublin, Ireland. A paper selected for this honor exemplifies quality, achievement, and significance to advance a field of combustion science. Distinguished papers are selected biennially from among the scientific papers presented during the International Symposium on Combustion and accepted for publication in the Proceedings of The Combustion Institute.