The design requirements of a modem gas turbine combustor are increasingly dictated by wide stability limits, short flame length, and uniform mixing. To achieve the best trade-off between the above three factors, flame characteristics (length, shape, mixedness), lean blowout (LBO), and optimum combustor configuration should be investigated over a wide range of inner and outer air velocities, inner and outer vane angles, and co- vs. counter-swirl arrangements. Such an investigation was performed in a step swirl combustor (SSC) designed to simulate the fuel-air mixing pattern in a gas turbine combustor dome fitted with an airblast atomizer.

It was found that an increase in the outer vane angle and a decrease in inner air velocity decreased the flame length. LBO was improved when outer flow swirl intensity was increased. An optimum hardware and velocity configuration for the SSC was found for inner swirl = 45°, outer swirl = 60°, co-swirl direction, and inner air velocity = outer air velocity = 16 m/s. This optimum SSC configuration yielded: (i) low values of LBO, (ii) short flame length, (iii) uniformly mixed stable flame, and (iv) little or no variation in these characteristics over the range of operation of SSC. Finally, the co- vs. counter-swirl arrangements and the operation of the optimized combustor configuration were discussed.

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