Modern aircraft engines combine liquid fuel and air using an intricate flow device with many fuel and air flow passages. To date, the process by which the fuel atomizes within this swirler set has not been examined directly due to optical access limitations. In this work, high-speed x-ray phase-contrast imaging of a liquid spray inside a gas turbine engine swirler geometry is presented. Measurements were carried out at the 7-BM beam-line of the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory using the high-energy broadband x-ray beam. The synchrotron x-ray source provides the necessary photon energy and flux to capture time-resolved fluid phenomena within the confines of the relevant geometry while liquid and air are flowing. Spray nozzle hardware and geometries were provided by the National Jet Fuels Combustion Program, allowing for characterization of the spray using a commercially relevant configuration. Modified swirlers were 3D printed with acrylic to improve imaging access while maintaining influential internal features. Water was used as a surrogate fluid for these studies to demonstrate the visualization capabilities. The experiments were conducted at atmospheric exit pressure conditions with a pressure drop of 6% across the swirler. High-speed imaging of the pilot spray cone revealed sheet breakup several millimeters downstream of the orifice exit, upon interaction with the radial assist air flow. These droplets and ligaments were observed to impinge on the inner filming surface of the swirler and flow toward the exit while developing a tangential flow. Under these conditions, the liquid film grows up to several hundred microns in thickness on the filming surface, and subsequently forms ligaments up to several millimeters in length before breaking up. This work demonstrates the capability of x-ray diagnostics in visualizing liquid flows within solid geometries of technical relevance. Furthermore, the spatial quantification of filming flows and liquid interaction with the swirler air provides validation data for modeling of the multi-phase flows and surface interactions within the swirler.

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