Spontaneous transition of turbulent flames to detonations in unconfined media.
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A deflagration-to-detonation transition (DDT) can occur in environments ranging from experimental and industrial systems to astrophysical thermonuclear (type Ia) supernovae explosions. Substantial progress has been made in explaining the nature of DDT in confined systems with walls, internal obstacles, or preexisting shocks. It remains unclear, however, whether DDT can occur in unconfined media. Here we use direct numerical simulations (DNS) to show that for high enough turbulent intensities unconfined, subsonic, premixed, turbulent flames are inherently unstable to DDT. The associated mechanism, based on the nonsteady evolution of flames faster than the Chapman-Jouguet deflagrations, is qualitatively different from the traditionally suggested spontaneous reaction-wave model. Critical turbulent flame speeds, predicted by this mechanism for the onset of DDT, are in agreement with DNS results.