Purdue University Graduate School
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Numerical Modeling of Thermo-Acoustic Instability in a Self-Excited Resonance Combustor using Flamelet Modeling Approach and Transported Probability Density Function Method

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posted on 2019-08-15, 17:54 authored by Tejas PantTejas Pant
Combustion instability due to thermo-acoustic interactions in high-speed propulsion devices such as gas turbines and rocket engines result from pressure waves with very large amplitudes propagating back and forth in the combustion chamber. Exposure to the pressure fluctuations over a long period of time can lead to a cataclysmic failure of engines. The underlying physics governing the generation of the thermo-acoustic instability is a complex interaction among heat release, turbulence, and acoustic waves. Currently, it is very difficult to accurately predict the expected level of oscillations in a combustor. Hence development of strategies and engineering solutions to mitigate thermo-acoustic instability is an active area of research in both academia and industry. In this work, we carry out numerical modeling of thermo-acoustic instability in a self-excited, laboratory scale, model rocket combustor developed at Purdue University. Two different turbulent combustion models to account for turbulence-chemistry interactions are considered in this study, the flamelet model and the transported probability density function (PDF) method.

In the flamelet modeling approach, detailed chemical kinetics can be easily incorporated at a relatively low cost in comparison to other turbulent combustion models and it also accounts for turbulence-chemistry interactions. The flamelet model study is divided into two parts. In first part, we examine the effect of different numerical approaches for implementing the flamelet model. In advanced modeling and simulations of turbulent combustion, the accuracy of model predictions is affected by physical model errors as well as errors that arise from the numerical implementation of models in simulation codes. Here we are mainly concerned with the effect of numerical implementation on model predictions of turbulent combustion. Particularly, we employ the flamelet/progress variable (FPV) model and examine the effect of various numerical approaches for the flamelet table integration, with presumed shapes of PDF, on the FPV modeling results. Three different presumed-PDF table integration approaches are examined in detail by employing different numerical integration strategies. The effect of the different presumed-PDF table integration approaches is examined on predictions of two real flames, a laboratory-scale turbulent free jet flame, Sandia Flame D and the self-excited resonance model rocket combustor. Significant difference is observed in the predictions both of the flames. The results in this study further support the claims made in previous studies that it is imperative to preserve the laminar flamelet structure during integration while using the flamelet model to achieve better predictions in simulations. In the second part of the flamelet modeling study, computational investigations of the coupling between the transient flame dynamics such as the ignition delay and local extinction and the thermo-acoustic instability developed in a self-excited resonance combustor to gain deep insights into the mechanisms of thermo-acoustic instability. A modeling framework that employs different flamelet models (the steady flamelet model and the flamelet/progress variable approach) is developed to enable the examination of the effect of the transient flame dynamics caused by the strong coupling of the turbulent mixing and finite-rate chemical kinetics on the occurrence of thermo-acoustic instability. The models are validated by using the available experimental data for the pressure signal. Parametric studies are performed to examine the effect of the occurrence of the transient flame dynamics, the effect of artificial amplification of the Damkohler number, and the effect of neglecting mixture fraction fluctuations on the predictions of the thermo-acoustic instability. The parametric studies reveal that the occurrence of transient flame dynamics has a strong influence on the onset of the thermo-acoustic instability. Further analysis is then conducted to localize the effect of a particular flame dynamic event, the ignition delay, on the thermo-acoustic instability. The reverse effect of the occurrence of the thermo-acoustic instability on the transient flame dynamics in the combustor is also investigated by examining the temporal evolution of the local flame events in conjunction with the pressure wave propagation. The above observed two-way coupling between the transient flame dynamics (the ignition delay) and the thermo-acoustic instability provides a plausible mechanism of the self-excited and sustained thermo-acoustic instability observed in the combustor.

The second turbulent combustion model considered in this study is the transported PDF method. The transported PDF method is one of the most attractive models because it treats the highly-nonlinear chemical reaction source term without a closure requirement and it is a generalized model for a wide range of turbulent combustion problems.
Traditionally, the transported PDF method has been used to model low-Mach number, incompressible flows where the pressure is assumed to be thermodynamically constant. Since there is significant pressure fluctuations in the model rocket combustor, the flow is highly compressible and it is necessary to account for this compressibility in the transported PDF method. In the past there has been very little work to model compressible reactive flows using the transported PDF and no effort has been made to model thermo-acoustic instability using the transported PDF method. There is a pressing need to further examine and develop the transported PDF method for compressible reactive flows to broaden our understanding of physical phenomenon like thermo-acoustic instability, interaction between combustion and strong shock and expansion waves, coupling between acoustic and heat release which are observed in high-speed turbulent combustion problems. To address this, a modeling framework for compressible turbulent reactive flows by the using the transported PDF method is developed. This framework is validated in a series of test cases ranging from pure mixing to a supersonic turbulent jet flame. The framework is then used to study the thermo-acoustic interactions in the self-excited model rocket combustor.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Haifeng Wang

Additional Committee Member 2

Carson Slabaugh

Additional Committee Member 3

Tom Shih

Additional Committee Member 4

William Anderson