The dynamic transitions preceding combustion instability and lean blowout were investigated experimentally in a laboratory scale turbulent combustor by systematically varying the flow Reynolds number. We observe that the onset of combustion-driven oscillations is always presaged by intermittent bursts of high-amplitude periodic oscillations that appear in a near random fashion amidst regions of aperiodic, low-amplitude fluctuations. The onset of high-amplitude, combustion-driven oscillations in turbulent combustors thus corresponds to a transition in dynamics from chaos to limit cycle oscillations through a state characterized as intermittency in dynamical systems theory. These excursions to periodic oscillations become last longer in time as operating conditions approach instability and finally the system transitions completely into periodic oscillations. Such intermittent oscillations emerge through the establishment of homoclinic orbits in the phase space of the global system which is composed of hydrodynamic and acoustic subsystems that operate over different time scales. Such intermittent burst oscillations are also observed in the combustor on increasing the Reynolds number further past conditions of combustion instability towards the lean blowout limit. High-speed flame images reveal that the intermittent states observed prior to lean blowout correspond to aperiodic detachment of the flame from the bluff-body lip. These intermittent oscillations are thus of prognostic value and can be utilized to provide early warning signals to combustion instability as well as lean blowout.

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