The Effects of Porous Inert Media in a Self-Excited Thermoacoustic Instability: A Study of Heat Release and Reduced Order Modelling


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Virginia Tech


In the effort to reduce emission and fuel consumption in industrial gas turbines, lean premixed combustion is utilized but is susceptible to thermoacoustic instabilities. These instabilities occur due to an in-phase relationship between acoustic pressure and unsteady heat release in a combustor. Thermoacoustic instabilities have been shown to cause structural damage and limit operability of combustors. To mitigate these instabilities, a variety of active and passive methods can be employed. The addition of porous inert media (PIM) is a passive mitigation technique that has been shown to be effective at mitigating an instability. Practical industrial application of a mitigation strategy requires early-stage design considerations such as reduced order modeling, which is often used to study a systems' stability response to geometric changes and mitigation approaches. These reduced order models rely on flame transfer functions (FTF) which numerically represent the relationship between heat release and acoustic perturbations. The accurate quantification of heat release is critical in the study of these instabilities and is a necessary component to improve the reduced order model's predictive capability. Heat release quantification presents numerous challenges. Previous work resolving heat release has used optical diagnostics. For perfectly premixed, laminar flames, it has been shown there are proportional relationships between OH* or CH* chemiluminescence to heat release. This is an ideal case; in reality, practical burners produce turbulent and partially premixed flames. Due to the additional straining of the flame caused by turbulence, the heat release is no longer proportional to chemiluminescence quantities. Also, partially premixed systems have spatially varying equivalence ratios and heat release rates, meaning analysis reliant on perfectly premixed assumptions cannot be used and techniques that can handle spatial variations is needed. The objective of this thesis is to incorporate PIM effects into a reduced order model and resolve quantities vital to understand how PIM is mitigating thermoacoustic instabilities in a partially premixed, turbulent combustion environment. The initial work presented in this thesis is the development of a reduced order model for predicting mode shapes and system stability with and without PIM. This was the first time that a reduced order model was developed to study PIM effects on the thermoacoustic response. Model development used a linear FTF and can predict the system frequency and stability response. Through the frequency response, mode shapes can be constructed which show the axial variation in acoustic values, along with node and anti-node locations. Stability trends can be predicted, such as the independent effects of system parameter variation, to determine its stability response. The model was compared to canonical case studies as well as experimental data with reasonable agreement. With PIM addition, it was shown that a combustor would be under stable operation at more flow conditions than without PIM. The work also shows the stability sensitivity to different porous parameters and PIM locations within the combustor. The model has been used to aid in the design of other combustion systems developed at Virginia Tech's Advanced Propulsion and Power Laboratory. To better understand how PIM is affecting the system stability and demonstrate measurements for the improvement of a numerical FTF, experimental work to resolve the spatially varying equivalence ratio fluctuations was conducted in an atmospheric, swirl-stabilized combustor. The experimental studies worked to improve the fundamental understanding of PIM and its mitigation effects through spatially and temporally resolved equivalence ratios during a self-excited instability. The experimental combustor has an optically accessible flame region which allowed for high speed chemiluminescence to be captured during the instability. Equivalence ratio values were calculated from a relation involving OH*/CH* chemiluminescence ratio. The acoustic perturbations were studied to show how the equivalence ratio fluctuations were being generated and coupling with the acoustic waves. The fluctuation in equivalence ratio showed about 65% variation around its mean value during the period of an instability cycle. When porous media was added to the system, the fluctuation in equivalence ratio was mitigated and a reduction in peak frequency (sound pressure level) SPL of 38 dB was observed. Changes in the spatial distribution of equivalence ratio with PIM addition were shown to produce a more stable operation. Effects such as locally richer burning and changes to recirculation zones promoted more stable operation with PIM addition. Testing with forced acoustic input was also conducted to quantify the flame response. The results demonstrated that a flame in a system with PIM responds differently than without PIM, highlighting the need to develop FTF for systems with PIM. This experimental study was the first to study equivalence ratio in a turbulent, partially premixed combustor using PIM as a mitigation technique. A final experimental investigation was conducted to resolve the spatially defined heat release and its fluctuation during a thermoacoustic instability period. This was the first time that heat release had been investigated in a partially premixed, thermoacoustically unstable system, using PIM as a migration method. Heat release was quantified using equivalence ratio, strain rate, OH* intensity, and a correction factor determined from a chemical kinetic solver. The heat release analysis built upon the equivalence ratio study with additional flow field analysis using PIV. The velocity vectors showed prominent corner and central recirculation zones in the no PIM case which have been shown to be feedback mechanisms that support instability formation. With PIM addition, these flow features were reduced and decoupled from the combustor inlet reactants. The velocity results were decomposed using a spectral proper orthogonal decomposition (SPOD) method. The energy breakdown showed how PIM reduced and distributed the energy in the flow structures, creating a more stable flow field. Heat release results with velocity information demonstrated the significant coupling mechanisms in the flow field that were mitigated with the PIM addition. The no PIM case showed high heat release areas being directly influenced by the incoming flow fluctuations. The feedback mechanisms, both mean flow and acoustic, have a direct path to the incoming flow to the combustor. In the PIM case, there is significant mixing and burning taking place in locations where it is less likely that feedback can reach the incoming flow to couple to form an instability. The methodology to quantify heat release provides a framework for quantifying a non-linear FTF with PIM. The development and testing to determine a non-linear FTF with PIM are reserved for future work and discussed in the final chapter. The methodologies and modeling conducted here provided insight and understanding to answer why PIM is effective at mitigating a thermoacoustic instability and how it can be studied using a reduced order numerical tool.



Thermoacoustic Instability, Porous Inert Media, Reduced Order Model, Heat Release Quantification