Response mechanisms of attached premixed flames to harmonic forcing
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The persistent thrust for a cleaner, greener environment has prompted air pollution regulations to be enforced with increased stringency by environmental protection bodies all over the world. This has prompted gas turbine manufacturers to move from non-premixed combustion to lean, premixed combustion. These lean premixed combustors operate quite fuel-lean compared to the stochiometric, in order to minimize CO and NOx productions, and are very susceptible to oscillations in any of the upstream flow variables. These oscillations cause the heat release rate of the flame to oscillate, which can engage one or more acoustic modes of the combustor or gas turbine components, and under certain conditions, lead to limit cycle oscillations. This phenomenon, called thermoacoustic instabilities, is characterized by very high pressure oscillations and increased heat fluxes at system walls, and can cause significant problems in the routine operability of these combustors, not to mention the occasional hardware damages that could occur, all of which cumulatively cost several millions of dollars. In a bid towards understanding this flow-flame interaction, this research works studies the heat release response of premixed flames to oscillations in reactant equivalence ratio, reactant velocity and pressure, under conditions where the flame preheat zone is convectively compact to these disturbances, using the G-equation. The heat release response is quantified by means of the flame transfer function and together with combustor acoustics, forms a critical component of the analytical models that can predict combustor dynamics. To this end, low excitation amplitude (linear) and high excitation amplitude (nonlinear) responses of the flame are studied in this work. The linear heat release response of lean, premixed flames are seen to be dominated by responses to velocity and equivalence ratio fluctuations at low frequencies, and to pressure fluctuations at high frequencies which are in the vicinity of typical screech frequencies in gas turbine combustors. The nonlinear response problem is exclusively studied in the case of equivalence ratio coupling. Various nonlinearity mechanisms are identified, amongst which the crossover mechanisms, viz., stoichiometric and flammability crossovers, are seen to be responsible in causing saturation in the overall heat release magnitude of the flame. The response physics remain the same across various preheat temperatures and reactant pressures. Finally, comparisons between the chemiluminescence transfer function obtained experimentally and the heat release transfer functions obtained from the reduced order model (ROM) are performed for lean, CH4/Air swirl-stabilized, axisymmetric V-flames. While the comparison between the phases of the experimental and theoretical transfer functions are encouraging, their magnitudes show disagreement at lower Strouhal number gains show disagreement.