As part of an effort to develop a microscale gas turbine engine, this paper presents the design and experimental characterization of a micro-combustor that catalytically burns JP8 fuel. Due to the high energy densities of hydrocarbon fuels, microscale heat engines based on them may enable compact power sources with specific energies higher than those of current battery systems. In addition, utilizing a commonly available logistics fuel would provide advantages for military applications. Thus, a microscale engine burning JP8 fuel is attractive as a portable power source. A liquid-fueled micro-combustor with a combustion chamber volume of 1.4 cm3 and an overall die size of 36.4 mm × 36.4 mm × 6.5 mm was designed, micro-fabricated, and experimentally characterized. Two configurations were tested and compared; one with the combustion chamber entirely filled with a catalyst, and the other with the combustion chamber partially filled with a catalyst. In the configuration filled with a catalyst, JP8 combustion was sustained at mass flow rates up to 0.1 g/sec, and an exit gas temperature of 780 K; an overall combustor efficiency of 19%, and a power density of 43 MW/m3 were achieved. The primary limitation on increasing the mass flow rates and temperature further was structural failure of the device due to thermal stresses. With the partially-filled configuration, a mass flow rate of 0.2 g/sec, and a corresponding power density of 54 MW/m3 were obtained. The exit gas temperature for the partially-filled configuration was as high as 720 K, and the maximum overall efficiency was over 22%. Although the reduced amount of catalyst led to incomplete combustion, smaller thermal losses resulted in an increase in the overall combustor efficiency and power density. A non-dimensional operating map was constructed based on the experiment, and it suggests that improving the thermal efficiency would be necessary to achieve higher efficiencies in the device.

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