Methods of Diffusing Pulse Detonation Combustion

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Virginia Tech

Pulse detonation combustion has been of interest for many years since it offers several advantages over standard deflagrative combustion. In theory, detonative combustion is a better use of fuel compared to deflagrative combustion since less entropy is generated during a detonation. As a result, detonation offers higher pressure and temperature gain across the wave front compared to the comparable deflagration. Since a detonation is a supersonic event which uses a shock to compress and dissociate reactants, a Pulse Detonation Combustor (PDC) is a relatively simple device that does not necessarily require a large compressor section at the inlet. Despite these benefits, using a turbine to extract work from a PDC is a problem littered with technical challenges. A PDC necessarily operates cyclically, producing highly transient pressure and temperature fields. This cyclic operation presents concerns with regards to turbine reliability and effective work extraction.

The research presented here investigated the implementation of a pulse detonation diffuser, a device intended to temporally and spatially distribute the energy produced during a detonation pulse. This device would be an inert extension from a baseline PDC, manipulating the decaying detonation front while minimizing entropy production. A diffuser will seek to elongate, steady, attenuate, and maintain the quality of energy contained in the exhaust of a detonation pulse. These functions intend to reduce stresses introduced to a turbine and aid in effective work extraction. The goal of this research was to design, implement, and evaluate such a diffuser using the using conventional analysis and simulated and physical experimentation.

Diffuser concepts using various wave dynamic mechanisms were generated. Analytical models were developed to estimate basic timing and wave attenuation parameters for a given design. These models served to inform the detail design process, providing an idea for geometric scale for a diffuser. Designs were simulated in ANSYS Fluent. The simulated performance of each diffuser was measured using metrics quantifying the wave attenuation, pulse elongation, pulse steadying, and entropy generation for each design. The most promising diffuser was fabricated and tested using a detonation tube. Diffuser performance was compared against analytical and computational models using dynamic pressure transducer diagnostics.

Pressure gain combustion, pulse detonation combustion, wave dynamics