NH3 vs. CH4 autoignition: A comparison of chemical dynamics

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In order to obtain physical insights on ammonia combustion, which is characterised by exceptionally long ignition delays and increased NOx emissions, the autoignition dynamics of an ammonia/air mixture is analysed using the diagnostics tools derived from the Computational Singular Perturbation (CSP) methodology. The results are compared to the autoignition dynamics of a methane/air mixture of same initial conditions. Methane was chosen for comparison because, even though the two molecules have a formal similarity, the ignition delay of methane is more than 10 times shorter than the one of ammonia. By using the CSP diagnostics tools, we identified the dominant chemical pathways that relate to the explosive components that drive the system towards ignition for both cases. Furthermore, the reactions that hinder the ammonia ignition were identified. This led to the determination of an interesting difference in the electronic configuration of the molecules of the two fuels, which is the root of their drastically different oxidation dynamics. In particular, it was shown that the autoignition process starts with the formation of methyl (CH (Formula presented.)) and amine (NH (Formula presented.)) radicals, through dehydrogenation of methane and ammonia, respectively. In the methane case, the methyl-peroxy radical (CH (Formula presented.) –O–O–) then forms, which initiates a chemical runaway that lasts for approximately 2/3 of the ignition delay and leads to the gradual oxidation of carbon to CO (Formula presented.). In the ammonia case, though, the structure of NH (Formula presented.) is such that it is not possible to form NH (Formula presented.) –O–O–. As a result, the chemical runaway is suspended.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1110-1131
Number of pages22
JournalCombustion Theory and Modelling
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • ammonia
  • autoignition
  • chemical kinetics
  • computational singular perturbation
  • dynamics
  • methane


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