The development of a hydrogen-air microcombustor is described. The combustor is intended for use in a 1 mm2 inlet area, micro-gas turbine engine. While the size of the device poses several difficulties, it also provides new and unique opportunities. The combustion concept investigated is based upon introducing hydrogen and premixing it with air upstream of the combustor. The wide flammability limits of hydrogen-air mixtures and the use of refractory ceramics enable combustion at lean conditions, obviating the need for both a combustor dilution zone and combustor wall cooling. The entire combustion process is carried out at temperatures below the limitations set by material properties, resulting in a significant reduction of complexity when compared to larger-scale gas turbine combustors. A feasibility study with initial design analyses is presented, followed by experimental results from 0.13 cm3 silicon carbide and steel microcombustors. The combustors were operated for tens of hours, and produced the requisite heat release for a microengine application over a range of fuel-air ratios, inlet temperatures, and pressures up to four atmospheres. Issues of flame stability, heat transfer, ignition and mixing are addressed. A discussion of requirements for catalytic processes for hydrocarbon fuels is also presented.

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