An Experimental Investigation on the Dynamics of Lean Premixed Swirl Flames

  • Francesco Di Sabatino

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Gas turbine engines are an efficient and flexible way of power generation and aircraft propulsion. Even though different combustion systems can be implemented in these engines, more stringent regulations on pollutant emissions have been imposed throughout the years, especially in regard to nitrogen oxides (NOx). A very promising technology to reduce NOx emissions is lean premixed combustion (LPC), however, it is plagued by intense flame dynamics. Thermoacoustic instabilities, lean blow-off and lean instabilities are examples of dynamical phenomena that are detrimental to the gas turbines. In view of this, the present thesis presents the experimental investigation of the response of lean premixed swirl flames to acoustic perturbations at atmospheric and elevated pressures. The results of this investigation may be used to understand the thermoacoustic instabilities and further could be helpful in their prediction. Moreover, this work addresses the effects of non-thermal plasma discharges on the lean blow-off and stability limits of premixed swirl flames at elevated pressures. For the analysis of the flame response to acoustic fluctuations, the flame transfer functions, the flame dynamics, phase-locked velocity fields, and phase-locked measurements of flame curvature are collected through heat release and velocity fluctuations measurements, phase-locked images of the flame, particle image velocimetry, and planar laser-induced fluorescence, respectively. For the analysis of the effects of plasma discharges on the stability limits, electrical measurements and direct imaging of the flame are performed. The results include the development of an empirical relation based on the laminar burning velocity and on the circulation of the acoustically generated vortex to predict the response of the flame to acoustic fluctuations in different operating conditions. Moreover, the results show that the pressure has a strong impact on the response of lean premixed swirl flames to acoustic oscillations and on the flame-plasma interactions. Therefore, extrapolating results obtained at atmospheric conditions to elevated pressures may result in erroneous conclusions. Furthermore, it is shown that non-thermal plasma discharges can effectively extend the stability limits of lean premixed swirl flames at elevated pressures, underlining the potential of these discharges at conditions relevant for gas turbines.
Date of AwardApr 2020
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorDeanna Lacoste (Supervisor)


  • Flame-acoustic interactions
  • Plasma-assisted combustion
  • Elevated pressures
  • Combustion diagnostics

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