Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Most models of the Big Bang take the ignition for granted. Researchers at the University of Central Florida wanted to explore how the birth of the cosmos was set in motion.
After analyzing supernova explosions and considering the constraints of an unborn universe, a team of engineers and astrophysicists at UCF developed a new theory for the mechanisms that could trigger a Big Bang explosion. They published their theory Friday in the journal Science.
"We defined the critical criteria where we can drive a flame to self-generate its own turbulence, spontaneously accelerate and transition into detonation," study co-author Kareem Ahmed, an assistant professor in UCF's department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said in a news release. "We're using the turbulence to enhance the mixing of the reactions to the point where it transitions into this violent reaction and essentially leads to supernovas, which is exploding stars in simple terms. We're taking a simplified flame to where it's reacting at five times the speed of sound."
Ahmed and his colleagues first happened upon a novel mechanism for ignition while analyzing supernova reactions and looking for new methods for hypersonic jet propulsion.
"When we started to dig deeper, we realized that this is relatable to something as profound as the origin of the universe," he said.
With enough turbulence, the scientists found an unconfined flame can become self-perpetuating. Once the flame is self-perpetuating, it starts to consume the energy it has ingested and a Mach 5 hypersonic supernova explosion is triggered.
The researchers tested the new ignition mechanics inside a turbulent shock tube in the labs at UCF.
"Thermonuclear combustion waves in [type Ia supernovae] are qualitatively similar to chemical combustion waves on Earth because they are controlled by the same physical mechanisms," researchers wrote in their paper.
Authors of the new new study suggest their ignition theory could be used to develop more powerful and efficient engines for faster air and space travel. Ahmed and his researcher partners hope the theory will eventually inspire a zero-emissions engine, in which all the combustion components are converted into energy.