Wildfires in the Lab: Simple Experiment and Models for the Exploration of Excitable Dynamics


Wildfires lead to the loss of life and property in many parts of the world. Understanding their dangers and, more particularly, the underlying dynamics which lead to fires of catastrophic scale contributes to better awareness as well as prevention and firefighting capabilities within the affected areas. In order to enable a basic understanding of the mechanisms of fire propagation for high school and college students, we present here simple model experiments using match sticks that demonstrate the dangers of spatial coupling between individual reactive (combustible) elements leading to rapid spreading of the combustion reaction. Supplemented with easy-to-grasp numerical simulations, our work illustrates the dynamics of wildfires in impressive but controllable ways and puts wildfire propagation into the fascinating framework of excitable active media which have many equivalents in chemical, ecological, biological or societal systems

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This paper was published in MPG.PuRe.

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