The development of higher thermal stability fuels and the development of onboard fuel deoxygenation systems may permit the preheating of fuel up to about 755 K before the onset of pyrolysis. At a sufficiently high fuel temperature for a given combustion chamber pressure, the flash vaporization of liquid or supercritical state fuel can ensue upon injection into the chamber. The performance of standard aviation turbine engine fuel nozzles, designed for mechanically breaking up liquid sprays, may thus be significantly altered by the employment of severely preheated fuel.

An evaluation of heated and superheated Jet A-1 sprays from a pressure-swirl atomizer was implemented in a purpose-built test facility. Laser sheet imaging of the spray yielded simultaneous axial cross-sectional maps of Mie-scatter and fluorescence signals. In addition, particle image velocimetry was also used to measure the spray droplet velocity-field. The results indicated that increasing the fuel’s dimensionless level of superheat ΔT* from −1.8 to 0.6 yielded significant changes in the spray structure; specifically, finer droplet sizes, a more uniform dropsize distribution across the spray, increased spray cone angle till about ΔT* = −0.8 followed by a contraction thereafter, marginally increased spray penetration, and significantly higher localised near nozzle tip droplet velocities. The measurements supported the hypothesis that the initial hollow-cone spray structure evolves to a near solid-cone structure with a central vapour core as the fuel is superheated.

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