The main origin of combustion instability in modern gas turbines is considered to be related to the interaction between acoustic waves and flame perturbations. An important role is played by the characteristics of combustion chamber and burners, because they influence the operating conditions at which the instability may occur. Experimental tests carried out on single burner arrangements fail to give adequate indications for the design of a full scale combustion chamber, due to the interaction of the local flame fluctuations with the propagation of the pressure waves, that have a wavelength of the same order of magnitude of the main dimensions of the chamber. Therefore there is a large interest on developing techniques able to make use of the data gathered from tests carried out on a single burner for predicting the thermoacoustic behavior of the combustion chamber at full scale with its actual geometry. A three dimensional finite element code has been developed for predicting acoustically driven combustion instabilities in combustion systems with complex geometries. The code allows one to identify the frequencies at which thermoacoustic instabilities are expected and the growth rate of the pressure oscillations, at the onset of instability, under the hypothesis of linear behaviour of the acoustic waves. The code permits to represent heat release fluctuations through an n–τ Flame Transfer Function (FTF) model and to adopt the transfer matrix method for modelling the burners. The FTF and the burner transfer matrix (BTM), as well as the temperature field and the flame location, needed for the simulation, can be obtained from experimental tests. Moreover, the code is able to make use of the local distribution of n and τ that can be evaluated from computational fluid dynamic studies on the single burner. The paper shows the importance of the flame characteristics, such as dimensions and shape of the heat release zone and its location within the combustor, underlying their influence on the instability of the modes and so the potential of the proposed method as a design tool for defining the burner characteristics and the acoustic impedance at the boundaries of the combustion chamber.

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