A Numerical Investigation on the Influence of Engine Shape and Mixing Processes on Wave Engine Performance
Erickson, Robert R.
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Wave engines are a class of unsteady, air-breathing propulsion devices that use an intermittent combustion process to generate thrust. The inherently simple mechanical design of the wave engine allows for a relatively low cost per unit propulsion system, yet unsatisfactory overall performance has severely limited the development of commercially successful wave engines. The primary objective of this investigation was to develop a more detailed physical understanding of the influence of gas dynamic nonlinearities, unsteady combustion processes, and engine shape on overall wave engine performance. Within this study, several numerical models were developed and applied to wave engines and related applications. The first portion of this investigation examined the influence of duct shape on driven oscillations in acoustic compression devices, which represent a simplified physical system closely related in several ways to the wave engine. A numerical model based on an application of the Galerkin method was developed to simulate large amplitude, one-dimensional acoustic waves driven in closed ducts. Results from this portion of the investigation showed that gas-dynamic nonlinearities significantly influence the properties of driven oscillations by transferring acoustic energy from the fundamental driven mode into higher harmonic modes. The second portion of this investigation presented and analyzed results from a numerical model of wave engine dynamics based on the quasi one-dimensional conservation equations in addition to separate sub-models for mixing and heat release. This model was then used to perform parametric studies of the characteristics of mixing and engine shape. The objectives of these studies were to determine the influence of mixing characteristics and engine shape on overall wave engine performance and to develop insight into the physical processes controlling overall performance trends. Results from this model showed that wave engine performance was strongly dependent on the coupling between the unsteady heat release that drives oscillations in the engine and the characteristics that determine the acoustic properties of the engine such as engine shape and mean property gradients. Simulation results showed that average thrust generation decreased dramatically when the natural acoustic mode frequencies of the engine and the frequency content of the unsteady heat release were not aligned.