Simulation of Isothermal Combustion in Gas Turbines
Rice, Matthew Jason
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Current improvements in gas turbine engine performance have arisen primarily due to increases in turbine inlet temperature and compressor pressure ratios. However, a maximum possible turbine inlet temperature exits in the form of the adiabatic combustion temperature of the fuel. In addition, thermal limits of turbine blade materials also places an upper bound on turbine inlet temperatures. Thus, the current strategy for improving gas turbine efficiency is inherently limited. Introduction of a new gas turbine, based on an alternative work cycle utilizing isothermal combustion (i.e. combustion within the turbine) affords significant opportunities for improving engine output and/or efficiency. However, implementation of such a scheme presents a number of technological challenges such as holding a flame in high-speed flow. The current research is aimed at determining whether such a combustion scheme is feasible using computational methods. The geometry, a simple 2-D cascade utilizes surface injection within the stator or rotor boundary layers (including the rotor pressure side recirculation zone (a natural flame holder). Computational methods utilized both steady and time accurate calculations with transitional flow as well as laminar and turbulent combustion and species transport. It has been determined that burning within a turbine is possible given a variety of injection schemes using "typical" foil geometries under "typical" operating conditions. Specifically, results indicate that combustion is self-igniting and, hence, self-sustaining given the high temperatures and pressures within a high pressure turbine passage. Deterioration of aerodynamic performance is not pronounced regardless of injection scheme. However, increased thermal loading in the form of higher adiabatic surface temperatures or heat transfer is significant given the injection and burning of the fuel within the boundary layer. This increase in thermal loading is, however, minimized when injection takes place in or near a recirculation zone. The effect of injection location on pattern factors indicates that suction side injection minimizes temperature variation downstream of the injection surface (for rotor injection only). In addition, the most uniform temperature profile (in the flow direction) is achieved by injection fuel and combustion nearest to the source of work extraction. Namely, injection at the rotor produces the most "isothermal" temperature distribution. Finally, a pseudo direct simulation of an isothermal machine is conducted by combining simulation data and assumed processes. The results indicate that isothermal combustion results in an increase in turbine specific work and efficiency over the equivalent Brayton cycle.
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