It is now well established that combustion instability in liquid-fueled gas turbines can be controlled through the use of active fuel modulation. What is less clear is the mechanism by which this is achieved. This results from the fact that in most fuel modulation strategies not only is the instantaneous mass flow rate of fuel affected but so to are the parameters which define the post-atomization spray that takes part in the combustion. Specifically, experience with piezoelectric modulated sprays has shown that drop size, velocity, cone angle, and patternation are all affected by the modulation process. This inability to decouple changes in the fueling rate from changes in the spray distribution makes understanding of the mechanism of instability control problematic.

This paper presents the results of an effort to develop an injector which can provide temporal modulation of the fuel flow rate but without concomitant changes in spray dynamics. This is achieved using an atomization strategy which is insensitive to both fuel flow rate and combustor acoustics (an over-pressured spill-return nozzle) coupled with an actuator with flat frequency response (a low-mass voice coil). The design and development of the actuator (and its control system) are described, and a combination of Phase-Doppler Interferometry and imaging are used to establish its performance. Results show that the system is capable of producing sprays which have little variation in cone angle or spray distribution function despite variations in mass flow rate (number density) of greater than 50% over a range of frequencies of interest for control of combustion instability (10 Hz to 1 kHz).

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