A three-dimensional direct numerical simulation (DNS) study of a spatially evolving planar turbulent reacting jet is reported. Combustion of methane with air is modelled using a four-step reduced mechanism in the non-premixed regime. A total of eight chemical species are integrated in time along with the fluid mechanical fields. The solution of the compressible Navier–Stokes equations is obtained numerically for moderately low Mach number. A large computational grid, with 100 million grid points, is required in order to resolve the flame. The cold flow Reynolds number is 3000. The focus of the study is to investigate the dynamics of extinction fronts in three-dimensional turbulent flows. A novel data reduction and identification algorithm was developed to postprocess the large DNS database and extract the shape of the evolving flame surface including its edges and their propagation velocity. The joint probability density function (p.d.f.) of edge velocity and scalar dissipation was obtained and the results indicate that the three-dimensional flame edges propagate with a velocity that is largely controlled by the local rate of scalar dissipation, or equivalently in terms of the local Damköhler number at the flame edge, as predicted by theory. Naturally, the effects of unsteadiness in this flow produce a broad joint p.d.f. The statistics collected also suggest that the mean value of the hydrogen radical reaction rate are very small in the turbulent regions of the flow owing to the functional form of the hydrogen radical reaction rate itself. The consequence of these results in the context of turbulent combustion modelling is discussed. Additional statistical and morphological information of the flame is provided.
(Received November 10 2003) (Revised April 6 2004)