In recent years, lean-premixed (LP) combustors have been widely studied due to their potential to reduce NOx emissions in comparison to diffusion type combustors. However, the fact that the fuels and oxidizers are mixed upstream of the combustion zone makes LP type of combustors a candidate for upstream flame propagation (i.e., flashback) in the premixer that is typically not designed to sustain high temperatures. Moreover, there has been a recent demand for fuel-flexible gas turbines that can operate on hydrogen-enriched fuels like Syngas. Combustors originally designed for slower kinetics fuels like natural gas can potentially encounter flashback if operated with faster burning fuels like those containing hydrogen as a constituent. There exists a clear need in fuel-flexible lean-premixed combustors to control flashback that will not only prevent costly component damage but will also enhance the operability margin of engines. A successful attempt has been made to control flashback in an atmospheric LP combustor, burning natural gas-air mixtures, via the application of dielectric barrier discharge (DBD). A low-power DBD actuator was designed, fabricated and integrated into a premixer made out of quartz. The actuator was tuned to produce a low magnitude ionic wind with an intention to modify the velocity profile in the premixer. Flashback conditions were created by decreasing the air flow rate while keeping the fuel flow rate constant. Within this experimental setup, flashback happened in the core flow along the axis of the cylindrical premixer. Results show that the utilization of the DBD delays the occurrence of flashback to higher equivalence ratios. Improvements as high as about 5% of the flashback limit have been obtained without compromising the blowout limit. It is anticipated that this novel application of DBD will lead to future demonstrations of the concept under realistic gas turbine operating conditions.

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