As part of an ongoing effort to develop a microscale gas turbine engine for power generation and micropropulsion applications, this paper presents the design, modeling, and experimental assessment of a catalytic combustion system. Previous work has indicated that homogenous gas-phase microcombustors are severely limited by chemical reaction timescales. Storable hydrocarbon fuels, such as propane, have been shown to blow out well below the desired mass flow rate per unit volume. Heterogeneous catalytic combustion has been identified as a possible improvement. Surface catalysis can increase hydrocarbon-air reaction rates, improve ignition characteristics, and broaden stability limits. Several radial inflow combustors were micromachined from silicon wafers using deep reactive ion etching and aligned fusion wafer bonding. The combustion chambers were filled with platinum-coated foam materials of various porosity and surface area. For near stoichiometric propane-air mixtures, exit gas temperatures of were achieved at mass flow rates in excess of . This corresponds to a power density of ; an 8.5-fold increase over the maximum power density achieved for gas-phase propane-air combustion in a similar geometry. Low-order models, including time-scale analyses and a one-dimensional steady-state plug-flow reactor model, were developed to elucidate the underlying physics and to identify important design parameters. High power density catalytic microcombustors were found to be limited by the diffusion of fuel species to the active surface, while substrate porosity and surface area-to-volume ratio were the dominant design variables.
Catalytic Combustion Systems for Microscale Gas Turbine Engines
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Spadaccini, C. M., Peck, J., and Waitz, I. A. (September 28, 2005). "Catalytic Combustion Systems for Microscale Gas Turbine Engines." ASME. J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power. January 2007; 129(1): 49–60. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.2204980
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