What Is Combustion Chemistry?

Combustion chemistry examines how fuels burn. This field has many applications, from developing new fuels for automobiles and decreasing emissions that contribute to air pollution to developing fire protection technology and designing furnaces. Continue reading for more information about this field and education programs that teach combustion chemistry. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Combustion and Combustion Chemistry Explained

Combustion is an exothermic chemical reaction in which oxygen combines with a fuel to produce heat and/or light and, in some cases, additional elements like carbon monoxide or nitric oxide. For example, in a car engine, combustion occurs when gasoline and air are mixed in the correct proportions and then ignited. This ignition sparks the release of energy, water and carbon dioxide.

Combustion chemistry explores the various processes that occur during combustion, including ignition, as well as product formation and reactant consumption. It also examines byproducts of combustion and any problems that might occur due to their presence, such as air pollution. Combustion chemistry can focus on various combustion systems, including non-carbon-fueled and plasma.

Important Facts About Being a Chemist

Required Education At least a bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related field, though master's and doctoral degrees are preferred for research-based work
Key Skills Organizational, analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
Work Environment Regular weekly hours, commonly subjected to hazardous materials
Similar Occupations Chemical engineer, geoscientist, biophysicist, materials engineer
Median Salary (2018)* $76,890
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 6%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Combustion chemistry is used in a number of fields. For example, an understanding of combustion chemistry could help you to diagnose and repair problems with a car's fuel and emissions control systems. It also could be useful in investigating the combustion of fuels that release carbon dioxide, which may be contributing to global warming. Additionally, a knowledge of combustion chemistry might allow you to research potential new fuels to replace those that are becoming depleted.

If you research the combustion of nitrogen, which produces nitrogen radicals like cyanide or nitric oxide that contribute to air pollution, you might be able to develop more efficient and cleaner combustion devices. This could include jet engines, gas turbines and automobile engines that reduce the emission of soot and nitrogen radicals.

You also might use combustion chemistry in the design of furnaces, helping to ensure that they operate efficiently and safely. Additionally, combustion chemistry can be utilized in the field of fire science to develop new methods and products for fire protection, fire suppression and fire safety.

Educational Options

You might take combustion chemistry courses in a number of disciplines, including applied physics, automotive technology, fire science or chemistry. Programs in mechanical, aerospace, chemical or environmental engineering can also include training in combustion chemistry.

In your combustion chemistry studies, you're likely to look at the various processes and chemical reactions that take place during the combustion of a fuel. You may learn about combustion mechanisms, chemical kinetics, chemical equilibrium, the first and second laws of thermodynamics and thermochemistry. Other topics may include ignition, turbulent combustion, premixed combustion and computational fluid dynamics.

Career Information

Since combustion chemistry is applied in several career fields, information specific to the career outlook in this discipline isn't available. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts growth of 6% in the number of jobs for all chemists from 2016-2026, with opportunities in areas like energy efficiency and pollution reduction. In 2018, the median annual wage of chemists working in all areas was $76,890, per the BLS.

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