NASA's Langley Research Center is seeking to improve upon stock stainless steel flame holders. Researchers at NASA Langley have developed a new ceramic design with a service temperature of 4000 °F. The combination of high strength and high temperature capability, and a twist lock mounting method to the steel burner, sets this flame holder apart from existing technology.
The high-output flame holder was developed in support of the U.S. Navy's efforts to design a jet engine simulator for infrared plume studies. Previous tests had shown that off-the-shelf components would melt or burn up in a short time. Given these design and performance criteria, NASA developed a ceramic flame holder that has a much longer lifecycle and can be used with a variety of torches or burners. Where the stainless flame holders showed signs of oxidation and flaking after only three hours of testing, NASA's ceramic flame holder has more than 150 hours and 200 cycles of use in a casting furnace, and soot marks are the only signs of use; there are no signs of deterioration.
NASA expects the new technology to help enhance safety through increased reliability and flame control. Additionally, the total cost of ownership is less due to decreased maintenance and improved efficiency. The technology enables roughly double the torch output without damaging the torch, operating at a higher temperature (4000 °F) than does stainless steel (1600 °F). In addition, the torch can be optimized for different applications (e.g., may use a mixing nozzle or a supersonic nozzle), and the technology can be used with either venturi or blown burners. The flame holder is easily replaceable without tools, and operates without the torch and holder rusting together after use. The design permits a modified torch to still use a conventional flame holder. Potential applications include use in jet engine simulation, and torches for forging, casting furnaces, and pottery kilns.