Over the last two decades, detonation based propulsion has received a great deal of attention as a potential means to achieve significant improvement in the performance of air-breathing and rocket engines. Detonative combustion mode is particularly interesting due to the resulting pressure gain from reactants to products, faster heat release, decreased entropy generation, more available work and higher thrust compared to conventional deflagrative combustion. Rotating detonation engine (RDE) is one such novel combustor concept. Realistic RDE configurations utilize separate fuel and air injection schemes, hence are not perfectly premixed. Moreover, RDE performance is governed by a large number of design parameters and operating conditions. In this context, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has the potential to enhance the understanding of RDE combustion and aid future development/optimization of this technology.

In the present work, a CFD model was developed to simulate a representative non-premixed RDE combustor. Unsteady Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) simulations were performed for the full combustor geometry (including the separate fuel and air injection ports), with hydrogen as fuel and air as the oxidizer. Adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) was incorporated to achieve a trade-off between model accuracy and computational expense. A finite-rate chemistry model along with a 10-species detailed kinetic mechanism was employed to describe the H2-Air combustion chemistry. Two operating conditions were simulated, corresponding to the same global equivalence ratio of unity but different fuel and air mass flow rates. For both conditions, the capability of the model to capture the essential detonation wave dynamics was assessed. A validation study was performed against experimental data available on detonation wave frequency/height, reactant fill height, oblique shock angle, axial pressure distribution in the channel, and fuel/air plenum pressure. The CFD model predicted the sensitivity of these wave characteristics to the operating conditions with good accuracy, both qualitatively and quantitatively. The present CFD model offers a potential capability to perform rapid design space exploration and/or performance optimization studies for realistic full-scale RDE configurations.

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