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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Three-dimensional Numerical Simulations of Rayleigh-Taylor Unstable Flames in Type Ia Supernovae

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Flame instabilities play a dominant role in accelerating the burning front to a large fraction of the speed of sound in a Type Ia supernova. We present a three-dimensional numerical simulation of a Rayleigh-Taylor unstable carbon flame, following its evolution through the transition to turbulence. A low-Mach number hydrodynamics method is used, freeing us from the harsh time step restrictions imposed by sound waves. We fully resolve the thermal structure of the flame and its reaction zone, eliminating the need for a flame model. A single density is considered, 1.5 × 107 g cm-3, and half-carbon, half-oxygen fuel: conditions under which the flame propagated in the flamelet regime in our related two-dimensional study. We compare to a corresponding two-dimensional simulation and show that while fire polishing keeps the small features suppressed in two dimensions, turbulence wrinkles the flame on far smaller scales in the three-dimensional case, suggesting that the transition to the distributed burning regime occurs at higher densities in three dimensions. Detailed turbulence diagnostics are provided. We show that the turbulence follows a Kolmogorov spectrum and is highly anisotropic on the large scales, with a much larger integral scale in the direction of gravity. Furthermore, we demonstrate that it becomes more Isotropic as it cascades down to small scales. On the basis of the turbulent statistics and the flame properties of our simulation, we compute the Gibson scale. We show the progress of the turbulent flame through a classic combustion regime diagram, indicating that the flame just enters the distributed burning regime near the end of our simulation. © 2005. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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