Influence of Fuel Inhomogeneity and Stratification Length Scales on Detonation Wave Propagation in a Rotating Detonation Combustor (RDC)
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The detonation-based engine has the key advantage of increased thermodynamic efficiency over the traditional constant pressure combustor. These detonation-based engines are also known as Pressure Gain Combustion systems (PGC) and Rotating Detonation Combustor (RDC) is a form of PGC, in which the detonation wave propagates azimuthally around an annular combustor. Prior researchers have performed a high fidelity 3-D numerical simulation of a rotating detonation combustor (RDC) to understand the flow physics such as detonation wave velocity, pressure profile, wave structure; however, performing these 3-D simulations is computationally expensive. 2-D simulations are a potential alternative to reduce computational cost. In most RDCs, fuel and oxidizer are injected discretely from separate plenums, and this discrete fuel/air injection results in inhomogeneous mixing within the domain. Due to the discrete fuel injection locations, fuel/oxidizer will stratify to form localized pockets of rich and lean mixtures. The motivation of the present study is to investigate the impact of unmixedness and stratification length scales on the performance of an RDC using a 2-D numerical approach. Unmixedness, which is defined as the standard deviation of equivalence ratio normalized by the mean global equivalence ratio, is a measure of the degree of fuel-oxidizer inhomogeneity. To model the effect of unmixedness in a 2-D domain, a lognormal distribution of the fuel mass fraction is generated with a mean equivalence ratio of 1 and varying standard deviations at the inlet boundary as a numerical source term. Moreover, to model the effects of stratification length scales, fuel mass fraction at the inlet boundary cells is bundled for a given length scale, and the mass fractions for these bundles are updated based on the lognormal distribution after every three-time steps. Using this methodology, 2-D numerical analyses are carried out to investigate the performance of an RDC for an H2-air mixture with varying unmixedness and stratification length scales. Results show that mean detonation velocity decreases and wave speed variation increases with an increase in unmixedness. However, with an increase in stratification length scale mean velocity remain relatively unchanged but variation in local velocity increases. The detonation wave front corrugation also increases with an increase in mixture inhomogeneity. The mean detonation cell size increases with an increase in unmixedness. The cell shape becomes more distorted and irregular with an increase in stratification length scale and unmixedness. The combined effect of unmixedness and stratification length scale leads to a decrease in pressure gain. Overall, this concept is able to elucidate the effects of varying unmixedness and stratification length scales on the performance of an RDC.
General Audience Abstract
Pressure Gain Combustion (PGC) system has gained significant focus in recent years due to its increased thermodynamic efficiency over a constant pressure Brayton Cycle. Rotating Detonation Combustor (RDC) is a type of PGC system, which is thermodynamically more efficient than the conventional gas turbine combustor. One of the main aspects of the detonation process is the rapid burning of the fuel-oxidizer mixture, which occurs so fast that there is not enough time for pressure to equilibrate. Therefore, the process is thermodynamically closer to a constant volume process rather than a constant pressure process. A constant volume cycle is thermodynamically more efficient than a constant pressure Brayton cycle. In an RDC, a mixture of fuel and air is injected axially, and a detonation wave propagates continuously through the circumferential section. Numerical simulation of an RDC provides additional flexibility over experiments in understanding the flow physics, detonation wave structure, and analyzing the physical and chemical processes involved in the detonation cycle. Prior researchers have utilized a full-scale 3-D numerical simulation for understanding the performance of an RDC. However, the major challenge with 3-D analyses is the computational expense. Thus, to overcome this, an inexpensive 2-D simulation is used to model the flow physics of an RDC. In most RDCs, the fuel and oxidizer are injected discretely from separate plenums. Due to the discrete fuel injection, the fuel/air mixture is never perfectly premixed and results in a stratified flow field. The objective of the current work is to develop a novel approach to independently investigate the effects of varying unmixedness and stratification length scales on RDC performance using a 2-D simulation.
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