Pressure gain combustion (PGC) has been conceived to convert fuel’s chemical energy into thermal energy and mechanical energy, thereby reducing the entropy production in the process. Recent research has shown that the rotating detonation combustion or combustor (RDC) can provide excellent specific thrust, specific impulse, and pressure gain within a small volume through rapid energy release by continuous detonation in the circumferential direction. The RDC as a PGC system for power generating gas turbines in combined cycle power plants could provide significant efficiency gains. However, few past studies have employed fuels that are relevant to power generation turbines, since RDC research has focused mainly on propulsion applications. In this study, we present experimental results from RDC operated on methane and oxygen-enriched air to represent reactants used in land-based power generation. The RDC is operated at a high pressure by placing a back-pressure plate downstream of the annular combustor.

Past studies have focused mainly on probe measurements inside the combustor, and thus, little information is known about the nature of the products exiting the RDC. In particular, it is unknown if chemical reactions persist outside the RDC annulus, especially if methane is used as the fuel. In this study, we apply two time-resolved optical techniques to simultaneously image the RDC products at framing rate of 30 kHz: (1) direct visual imaging to identify the overall size and extent of the plume, and (2) OH* chemiluminescence imaging to detect the reaction zones if any. Results show dynamic features of the combustion products that are consistent with the probe measurements inside the RDE. Moreover, presence of OH* in the products suggests that the oblique shock wave and reactions persist downstream of the detonation zone in the RDC.

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