Purdue University Graduate School
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Characterization of Lifted Flame Behavior in a Multi-Element Rocket Combustor

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posted on 2019-05-14, 19:42 authored by Aaron M BlackerAaron M Blacker

Lifted non-premixed turbulent jet flames in the Transverse Instability Combustor (TIC) have been analyzed using qualitative and quantitative methods. Lifted flames in the TIC have been observed to stabilize about zero to five injector exit diameters downstream of the dump plane into the chamber and exhibit pulsating, unsteady burning. Anchored flames immediately begin reacting in the injector recess and burn evenly in a uniform jet from the injector exit through the entire optically accessible region. Statistically significant, repeatable behavior lifted flames are observed. It is shown that the occurrence of lifted flames is most likely for an injector configuration with close wall-spacing, second greatest for a configuration with close middle-element spacing, and lowest for a configuration with even element-spacing. For all configurations, of those elements that have been observed to lift, the center element is most likely to lift while the second element from the wall was likely. Flames at the wall elements were never observed to lift. Evidence is shown to support that close injector element spacing and stronger transverse pressure waves aid lateral heat transfer which supports flame stability in the lifted position. It is hypothesized that the stability of lifted flames is influenced by neighboring ignition sources, often a neighboring anchored flame. It is also shown that instances of lifted flames increase with the root-mean-squared magnitude of pressure fluctuation about its mean (P’ RMS) up to a threshold, after which flames stabilize in the anchored recess position.

Dynamic mode decomposition (DMD) and proper orthogonal decomposition (POD) analyses of CH* chemiluminescence data is performed. It is found that lateral ignition of the most upstream portion of lifted flames is dominated by the 1W mode. Furthermore, it is shown that low-frequency high energy modes with spatial layers resemble intensity-pulses, possibly attributable to ignition. These modes are trademarks of CH* chemiluminescent intensity data of lifted flames. It was also shown that the residence time in the chamber may be closely associated with those low-frequency modes around 200 Hz. DMD and POD were repeated for a downstream region on the center element, as well as a near-wall element, highlighting differences between the lifted flame dynamics in all three regions.

It is shown that lifted flames are best characterized by their burning behavior and in rare cases may stabilize in the recess, while still being “lifted”. Furthermore, it is shown that flame position differentiation can extend into an initial period of highly stable combustor operation. Dynamic mode decomposition is explored as potential method to understand physical building blocks of proper orthogonal spatial layers. Non-visual indicators of lifted flames within the high-frequency (HF) pressure signal are sought to seek a method that allows for observation of lifted flames in optically inaccessible combustors, such as those in industry. Some attributes of power-spectral diagrams and cross-correlations of pressure signals are provided as potential indicators.


Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

Directorate for Education & Human Resources

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Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

William Anderson

Additional Committee Member 2

Carson Slabaugh

Additional Committee Member 3

Stephen Heister