In previous work the authors have demonstrated that when hydrogen is combusted in stoichiometric proportions at 1 atm and 1200 K, and singlet oxygen comprises 0–20% of the oxidizer, an optimal range of exergetic efficiency exists. The maximum exergetic efficiency occurs at approximately 10%. Over this range, roughly 60% of the total exergy destruction occurs prior to ignition. This is a significant result because it suggests that the exergetic efficiency of combustion might be improved at a fundamental level by chemical means, thereby inherently increasing the efficiency of fuel use for a desired energy application.
The objective of the study presented in this paper is to analyze the reaction mechanisms for combustion with varying percentages of singlet oxygen, to determine which reaction pathways most influence the observed trends in exergy destruction and exergetic efficiency. This was accomplished by performing both sensitivity and rate-of-production analyses of the hydrogen-oxygen combustion mechanism. The results of the analysis show that the presence of singlet oxygen governs the rate of production of hydroxyl and other key radicals. These key radicals directly affect the phenomenological processes associated with chemical induction and thermal induction during ignition. Therefore, the observed optimum exergetic efficiency correlates to the quantity of singlet oxygen in the inlet charge that minimizes exergy destruction by fostering chemical reactions due to radical formation to a greater extent than thermal heat release. The results of this analysis are noteworthy and provide new insight regarding how the exergetic efficiency of combustion may be optimized by introducing singlet oxygen, thereby altering the reaction pathways to enhance energy conversion in a fundamental way that could have important implications for improved fuel use.