Since lean premixed combustion allows for fuel-efficiency and low emissions, it is nowadays state of the art in stationary gas turbines. In the long term, it is also a promising approach for aero engines, when safety issues like lean blowout (LBO) and flame flashback in the premixer can be overcome. While for the use of hydrogen the LBO limits are extended, the flashback propensity is increased. Thus, axial air injection is applied in order to eliminate flashback in a swirl-stabilized combustor burning premixed hydrogen. Axial injection constitutes a nonswirling jet on the central axis of the radial swirl generator which influences the vortex breakdown (VB) position. In the present work, changes in the flow field and their impact on flashback limits of a model combustor are evaluated. First, a parametric study is conducted under isothermal test conditions in a water tunnel employing particle image velocimetry (PIV). The varied parameters are the amount of axially injected air and swirl number. Subsequently, flashback safety is evaluated in the presence of axial air injection in an atmospheric combustor test rig and a stability map is recorded. The flame structure is measured using high-speed OH* chemiluminescence imaging. Simultaneous high-speed PIV measurements of the reacting flow provide insight in the time-resolved reacting flow field and indicate the flame location by evaluating the Mie scattering of the raw PIV images by means of the qualitative light sheet (QLS) technique. The isothermal tests identify the potential of axial air injection to overcome the axial velocity deficits at the nozzle outlet, which is considered crucial in order to provide flashback safety. This effect of axial air injection is shown to prevail in the presence of a flame. Generally, flashback safety is shown to benefit from an elevated amount of axial air injection and a lower swirl number. Note that the latter also leads to increased NOx emissions, while axial air injection does not. Additionally, fuel momentum is indicated to positively influence flashback resistance, although based on a different mechanism, an explanation of which is suggested. In summary, flashback-proof operation of the burner with a high amount of axial air injection is achieved on the whole operating range of the test rig at inlet temperatures of 620 K and up to stoichiometric conditions while maintaining single digit NOx emissions below a flame temperature of 2000 K.

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