To address the known Local Air Quality impacts of ultrafine combustion derived soot, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have recently adopted a non-volatile Particulate Matter (nvPM) regulation in addition to those of NOx, UHC’s and CO for civil aviation gas turbines. Increased water humidity is known to reduce the formation of NOx in flames through localised temperature reduction, however its impact on emitted nvPM is to date not clearly understood. To address this knowledge gap, nvPM formation mechanisms were assessed empirically at increasing water loadings both at atmospheric pressure — in a RQL representative optical combustor fuelled with Jet A and alternative fuel blends — and during a full-scale Rolls-Royce aero-derivative Gas Turbine test fuelled on Diesel.
In line with previous studies, in the RQL combustor rig it was observed that increased hydrogen content in the test fuel — associated with a 100% Gas-To-Liquid (GTL) derived aviation kerosene with low aromatic content (0.05%) — reduced nvPM number concentrations by an order of magnitude compared to a baseline Jet A-1 fuel with representative aromatic content (24.24%). For all fuels tested it was also observed that an elevated water loading in the primary combustion zone (≤ 0.05 kg /kg of dry air), representative of maximum global humidity levels, resulted in reductions of both nvPM number and mass concentrations of 40% and 60% respectively. During a full-scale Rolls-Royce gas turbine study similar trends were observed, with an 85% reduction in measured nvPM mass whilst water was injected into the combustor at flow rates 25% higher than the diesel fuel flow.
The nvPM reductions in both experiments are significantly larger than can be explained by water dilution effects alone, with less impact noted for fuels with higher hydrogen content. This suggests the reduction may be in part due to chemistry. Preliminary chemical kinetic investigations were undertaken using CHEMKIN-PRO and suggest that the soot reduction mechanism is potentially via a reduction in PAH formation within the flame zone. However, further analysis is required to validate if this mechanism is dominated by in-flame OH reduction mechanisms or influenced significantly by other factors associated with water dilution and reduced flame temperatures.