Reducing the weight and decreasing pressure losses of aviation gas turbine engines improves the thrust-to-weight ratio and improves efficiency. In ultra-compact combustors (UCCs), engine length is reduced and pressure losses are decreased by merging a combustor with adjacent components using a systems engineering approach. High-pressure turbine inlet vanes can be placed in a combustor to form a UCC. Eliminating the compressor outlet guide vanes (OGVs) and maintaining swirl through the diffuser can result in further reduction in engine length and weight. Cycle analysis indicates that a 2.4% improvement in engine weight and a 0.8% increase in thrust-specific fuel consumption are possible when a UCC is used. Experiments and analysis were performed in an effort to understand key physical and chemical processes within a trapped-vortex UCC. Experiments were performed using a combustor operating at pressures in the range of 520–1030 kPa (75–150 psi) and inlet temperature of 480–620 K (865–1120 °R). The primary reaction zone is in a single trapped-vortex cavity where the equivalence ratio was varied from 0.7 to 1.8. Combustion efficiencies and NOx emissions were measured and exit temperature profiles obtained, for various air loadings, cavity equivalence ratios, and configurations with and without turbine inlet vanes. A combined diffuser-flameholder (CDF) was used in configurations without vanes to study the interaction of cavity and core flows. Higher combustion efficiency was achieved when the forward-to-aft momentum ratios of the air jets in the cavity were near unity or higher. Discrete jets of air immediately above the cavity result in the highest combustion efficiency. The air jets reinforce the vortex structure within the cavity, as confirmed through coherent structure velocimetry of high-speed images. A more uniform temperature profile was observed at the combustor exit when a CDF is used instead of vanes. This is the result of increased mass transport along the face of the flame holder. Emission indices of NOx were between 3.5 and 6.5 g/kgfuel for all test conditions. Ultra-compact combustors (with a single cavity) can be run with higher air loadings than those employed in previous testing with a trapped-vortex combustor (two cavities) with similar combustion efficiencies being maintained. The results of this study suggest that the length of combustors and adjacent components can be reduced by employing a systems level approach.

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