Dynamics of Lean Direct Injection Combustors

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Virginia Tech

Improvements to heritage gas turbine engines will be needed in the coming years as the demand made on these systems increase. While industry continually presses for higher performance of both military and civilian aero engines, the government simultaneously raises the bar for emissions standards in the commercial sector to support public health. The next generation of aerospace gas turbine engines will be defined by their ability to operate at high power conditions while maintaining efficiency. This challenge is compounded by airlines' proposition of a return to supersonic flight- an operating regime characterized by higher total temperatures, and thus more NOx production. Lean Direct Injection (LDI) is a combustion scheme that was proposed by NASA, and inherently addresses the needs of both the private sector and the military. LDI is a liquid fueled combustor that promotes rapid mixing of fuel and air at the entrance of the combustor. Despite the benefits of LDI, it has never been implemented, nor has any other lean burning scheme been implemented in an aircraft due to the system level complications of such technology. This dissertation focuses on the dynamics of thermoacoustic instability and lean blowout (LBO), two of the major complications that industry will face when they attempt to incorporate LDI in a production engine. The present dissertation investigates these dynamics from a fundamental and applications standpoint. Fundamental insights on thermoacoustic instabilities are developed by investigating droplet dynamics in a self-excited flow field, and significant oscillations in droplet diameters are discerned. PDPA measurement will be taken to identify coupling of the fuel spray with the instability, and a phase locking algorithm will be used to develop a new spray parameter than is more indicative of combustion heat release that the standard Sauter mean diameter. Next, while varying the swirl number and the venturi geometry of the combustor, the evolution of the flow field will be characterized. An in-house innovation called the Direct Rotation Swirler (DRS) is built for this purpose. The DRS uses an active geometry to provide continuously variable swirl number modulation. The effects of these changes on lean blow out, pressure drop and NOx emissions will then be experimentally determined. Venturis were rapidly manufactured using a ii casting procedure that was developed to make venturi geometries from a commercially available ceramic at very low cost.

Lean Direct Injection, Thermoacoustics, Lean Blow Out