Purdue University Graduate School
Ford Lynch Master's Thesis.pdf (18.71 MB)

Performance of Supersonic Turbomachinery for Rotating Detonation Engines

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posted on 2023-07-28, 16:01 authored by Ford Heston LynchFord Heston Lynch

      Rotating detonation combustion has been investigated since the 1960s and has gained much attention in the past decade due to its promise of pressure gain. In theory, the pressure gain can provide higher power output at inlet total temperatures similar to those of Brayton cycle engines, leading to increased efficiency and decreased engine size. However, complexities presented by detonative combustion have prevented it from becoming widely adopted, especially for turbomachinery applications. A rotating detonation combustor with a transonic or supersonic exhaust imposes rapid fluctuations in pressure, temperature, and flow angle at the inlet of the turbine. To account for these fluctuations, ad hoc turbine designs have been proposed over the last few years, including supersonic bladed and bladeless variants. Computational fluid dynamics simulations have shown that it is possible to extract a meaningful amount of work from these turbines, but dedicated experimental test rigs are needed to validate these designs at relevant conditions in long-duration tests.

     Toward this goal, this thesis focuses on three research elements. The first element is the design of a cooled rotating detonation combustor with a downstream turbine that can operate for long durations. The cooled combustor is accomplished in a two-part procedure: (1) repurposing Purdue University’s Turbine-integrated High-pressure Optical Rotating detonation engine (THOR) and (2) designing a lightweight, gaseous film-cooled combustor shroud with ample configurations for pressure, temperature, and optical measurements.

     The second element is the design of three supersonic turbines for use in RDEs: an axial-flow bladed turbine, an axial-flow bladeless turbine, and an axial-inflow/radial-outflow bladed turbine. Each turbine is designed for cold flow testing, and provisions for mounting the axial-flow bladed turbine downstream of the cooled combustor are proposed. Supplemental turbine hardware is also designed to provide precise and repeatable conditions for the turbine tests.

     The third element is the construction of an energy absorption dynamometer to measure the power output of the different supersonic turbines. Four types of dynamometers are explored, including hydraulic brakes, electromagnetic brakes, electric generator brakes, and airbrakes. Although the literature declares the electromagnetic brake to be more accurate, the most cost-effective solution is to utilize the compressor side of a donated turbocharger. Combining all research elements yields a new test rig for this new class of supersonic turbines.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Guillermo Paniagua

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

James Braun

Additional Committee Member 2

Eckhard Groll

Additional Committee Member 3

Terrence Meyer