A review of chemical diffusion: Criticism and limits of simplified methods for diffusion coefficient calculation

E. Giacomazzi, F.R. Picchia, N. Arcidiacono

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

22 Citations (Scopus)


A review of the physics and modelling of mass diffusion involving different gaseous chemical species is firstly proposed. Both accurate and simplified models for mass diffusion involve the calculation of individual species diffusion coefficients. Since these are computationally expensive, in CFD they are commonly estimated by assuming constant Lewis or Schmidt numbers for each chemical species. The constant Lewis number assumption is particularly used. As a matter of fact, these assumptions have never been theoretically justified nor verified in practical flames. The only published information are the first observations by Smooke and Giovangigli about the Lewis number against temperature distributions in methane-air premixed and counterflow diffusion one-dimensional flames. The aim of this work is to verify these assumptions. Functional dependences of molecular properties appearing in these numbers are made explicit to show that while Sci depends only on composition, Lei depends also on temperature and therefore it certainly cannot be assumed constant in a flame. Then, accurately calculating molecular properties, distributions of these characteristic numbers against temperature are obtained a posteriori from numerical simulations of different flames, premixed and non-premixed, and burning different fuels. For non-premixed flames, individual species Lewis number distributions are broad for most of the species considered in this article, whilst they are tight for premixed flames. Some attention is focused on the particular shape of Lewis distributions in non-premixed flames: they are characterized by four or five (when extinction is experienced) branches associated to precise regions in the flame (basically, lean, rich and stoichiometric combusting zones). Instead, the Schmidt distributions are always tighter, also when extinctions take place: for many species they can be approximatively assumed constant. Finally, a simplified procedure to estimate individual species diffusion coefficients is suggested, assuming the median of non-premixed flame Schmidt distributions has a constant value for each chemical species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135 - 158
Number of pages24
JournalCombustion Theory and Modelling
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Cite this