Olympics torch burns bright, thanks to rocket science

May 8th, 2008 - 2:36 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, May 8 (Xinhua) Though the Olympics torch has gone through the most adverse weather conditions while reaching Mount Everest Thursday morning, its flame is burning bright, thanks to China’s rocket science. “Even on a benign weather day, a gale might blow on Mount Everest. Bright sunshine one moment can quickly turn into a pour of hailstones the next,” said Zhang Ming, head of the Beijing Organising Committee’s torch relay centre.

“The lack of oxygen and low temperature is the main hindrance in keeping the Olympics flame from burning on the mountain, so the torch must be able to burn under such circumstances,” she added.

In January 2006, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, an institute that specialises in designing burning systems for rockets, was entrusted with the task of designing the combustion system for Beijing’s Olympic torch.

Liu Xingzhou, the chief engineer for the design project, said the same principle was adopted to keep the torch flame flaring on Mount Everest as much as to keep rocket motors flaring in thin air.

“We installed a pressure-retaining valve in the torch, which enables the flame to withstand winds of up to 65 kilometres an hour, nearly six centimetres of rain an hour, and temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius,” said Liu.

For a change, the flame is fuelled entirely by propane, which marks a departure from its predecessors.

While the 2000 Sydney Olympics’ torch burned a propane-butane mix, Athens’s torch in 2004 was run on propylene and butane, which produced a bit more soot but increased the flame’s brightness.

“No material, except carbon dioxide and water remain after the burning, eliminating any risk of pollution,” said Liu.

The fuel system used to light up the Olympics torch is gradually moving towards the system used to fire up rockets, he added.

Comparing modern Olympics torch technology with rocket design, Liu said: “Both areas are very complicated. And they require technology of combustion, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, materials science and manufacturing.

“We feel proud that the Olympics torch for the 2008 Olympics can have a ‘heart’ that is developed by Chinese scientists,” he said.

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