The performance of dry, low NOx gas turbines, which employ lean premixed (or partially premixed) combustors, is often limited by static and dynamic combustor stability, power density limitations and expensive premixing hardware. To overcome these issues, a novel design, referred to as the Stagnation Point Reverse Flow (SPRF) combustor, has recently been developed. Various optical diagnostic techniques are employed here to elucidate the combustion processes in this novel combustor. These include simultaneous planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) imaging of OH radicals and chemiluminescence imaging, and separate experiments with particle image velocimetry and elastic laser sheet scattering from liquid particles seeded into the fuel. The SPRF combustor achieves internal exhaust gas recirculation and efficient mixing, which eliminates local peaks in temperature. This results in low NOx emissions, limited by flame zone (prompt) production, for both premixed and non-premixed modes of operation. The flame is anchored in a region of reduced velocity and high turbulent intensities, which promotes mixing of hot products into the reactants, thus enabling stable operation of the combustor even at very lean equivalence ratios. Also, the flame structure and flow characteristics were found to remain invariant at high loadings, i.e., mass flow rates. Combustion in the non-premixed mode of operation is found to be similar to the premixed case, with the OH PLIF measurements indicating that nonpremixed flame burns at an equivalence ratio that is close to the overall combustor equivalence ratio. Similarities in emission levels between premixed and non-premixed modes are thus attributable to efficient fuel-air mixing in the nonpremixed mode, and entrainment of hot products into the reactant stream before burning occurs.

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