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First airflow interpretation of Sri Lankan wind-powered furnace.

Velocity vectors showing flow into and through the furnace (note reverse air flow behind furnace drawing air back into furnace from the top).

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD): a tool for the analysis of air flows in pre-industrial furnaces

Dr Gill Juleff

Arising out of the Monsoon Steel project, Gill has collaborated with Exeter colleagues, Dr Gavin Tabor and Dr Matt Baker, in the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences in exploring the application of CFD to pre-industrial furnaces. The most critical component of any pyrotechnical process is the air supply regime driving the combustion. This may include the pressure, rate and volume of air delivery (bellows, wind or natural draught), the interaction between airflow and the containing structure (furnace, hearth, kiln etc.), and the interaction between airflow and the reacting materials (charcoal, ore etc.). Unfortunately, this is the one component which is never preserved in the archaeological record. It can be only tentatively interpreted from the products of combustion.

Using physical experimental reconstructions, as in the Monsoon Steel smelting trials, it is possible to collect data that can then be used to model complex processes and systems using CFD. We have argued and demonstrated that CFD offers an exciting new tool for the study of ancient technology. A first paper on the subject has been published.

GR Tabor, D Molinari, G Juleff (2005) ‘Computational Simulation of Air Flows through a Sri Lankan Wind Driven Furnace’, Journal of Archaeological Science, 32(5), 753-766.