Volume 156, Issue 6, June 2009, Pages 1234–1241

Visible emission of hydrogen flames

  • Combustion Research Facility, Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, CA 94551-0969, USA


The common misconception that hydrogen flames are not visible is examined. Examples are presented of clearly visible emissions from typical hydrogen flames. It is shown that while visible emissions from these flames are considerably weaker than those from comparable hydrocarbon flames, they are indeed visible, albeit at reduced light levels in most cases. Detailed flame spectra are presented to characterize flame emission bands in the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regions of the spectrum that result in a visible hydrogen flame. The visible blue emission is emphasized, and recorded spectra indicate that fine spectral structure is superimposed on a broadband continuum extending from the ultraviolet into the visible region. Tests were performed to show that this emission does not arise from carbon or nitrogen chemistry resulting from carbon-containing impurities (hydrocarbons) in the hydrogen fuel or from CO2 or N2 entrainment from the surrounding air. The spectral structure, however, is also observed in methane flames. The magnitude of the broadband emission increases with flame temperature in a highly nonlinear manner while the finer spectral structure is insensitive to temperature. A comparison of diffusion and premixed H2 flames shows that the fine scale structure is comparable in both flames.


  • Hydrogen flames;
  • Flame spectroscopy;
  • Flame emissions
Corresponding author.