The high energy density of hydrocarbon fuels creates a great opportunity to develop combustion based micro-power generation systems to meet increasing demands for portable power devices, micro unmanned aerial vehicles, micro-satellite thrusters, and micro chemical reactors and sensors. In this paper, the recent technological development of micro-power systems and progress in fundamental understanding of micro-scale combustion are reviewed. At first, micro-scale combustion regimes are categorized by using different physical and chemical length and time scales and the resulting non-dimensional parameters and their correlations to various combustion regimes for micro and mesoscale combustion are discussed. Secondly, the recent successful developments and technical challenges of micro-thrusters, micro internal combustion engines, and micro chemical reactors summarized. Thirdly, the underlying fundamental mechanisms and ignition and flame dynamics in micro-scale combustion are reviewed, respectively, in premixed, non-premixed, catalytic, and non-equilibrium, micro-scale combustion systems. The conventional concepts of combustion limits such as the flammability limit, quenching diameter, and flame extinction and heat recirculation are revisited. The unique thermal and chemical transport mechanisms such as flame structure interaction, radical quenching, non-equilibrium transport appearing in micro-scale combustion are discussed. New flame regimes and instabilities such as flame bifurcation, weak flames, flame cells/streets, thermal and kinetic quenching, flameless low temperature catalytic combustion, repetitive extinction and ignition, spinning flames, spiral and multi-branched flames, symmetric and asymmetric oscillating flames are discussed. Finally, an overview of future research and conclusion are made. The goal of this review is to present an overview of the development of micro-power generators by focusing more on the advance in fundamental understanding of micro-scale combustion.
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