Conventional ignition systems of aero-engines are an integral part of the combustion chamber’s structure. Due to this hardware-related constraint, the ignition spark has to be generated in the quench zone of the combustion chamber, which is far from the optimum regarding thermo- and aerodynamics. An improved ignitability of the fuel-air mixture can be found in the central zone of the combustor, where higher local equivalence ratios prevail and where mixing is favorable for a smooth ignition. It would be a major advancement in aero-engine design to position the ignition kernel in these zones. A laser system is able to ignite the fuel-air mixture at almost any location inside of the combustion chamber. Commercial laser systems are under development, which can replace conventional spark plugs in internal combustion engines and gas turbines. This study was conducted to evaluate the applicability of laser ignition in liquid-fueled aero-engines. Ignition tests were performed with premixed natural gas and kerosene to evaluate the different approaches of laser and spark plug ignition. The experiments were carried out on a generic test rig with a well-investigated swirler, allowing sufficient operational flexibility for parametric testing. The possibility of the free choice of the laser’s focal point is the main advantage of laser-induced ignition. Placing the ignition kernel at the spray cone’s shear layer or at favorable locations in the recirculation zone could significantly increase the ignitability of the system. Consequently, the laser ignition of atomized kerosene was successfully tested down to a global equivalence ratio of 0.23. Furthermore, the laser outperformed the spark plug at ignition locations below axial distances of 50 mm from the spray nozzle.

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