Future gas turbine technology may require that liquid fuels play an additional role as a coolant over a wide range of combustion-chamber operating conditions. Additionally, in order to satisfy greater efficiency and performance goals, gas turbine operating temperatures and pressures are steadily increasing. Given the desire to reduce dependence on foreign fuels and that current hydrocarbon fuels, such as JP-8, are prone to thermal or catalytic decomposition at such elevated conditions, there is great interest in utilizing alternatively-derived liquid fuels. The successful development of a versatile, multiple-use fuel must achieve the desired operational characteristics of high combustion efficiency, excellent combustion stability, acceptable pollutant emission levels, and compatibility with current engine seals. Combustion instability represents a critical area of concern for future gas turbine engines that may burn alternative fuels. Combustion instability is characterized by large, unsteady combustion-chamber pressure oscillations which occur at the characteristic frequencies associated with the acoustic modes of the combustor. The occurrence of combustion-driven instabilities is closely tied to the details of the injection and fuel-air mixing processes, the heat release characteristics, and the degree to which heat release rate couples with the acoustics of the combustor. Additionally, the efficiency and emissions characteristics are also largely determined by the fuel injection, atomization, and mixing processes associated with combustion. As fuel properties and composition vary, effects on combustion efficiency and emissions, especially the formation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and soot, can be expected. Therefore, changes in these processes attributed to differing fuel properties can have a dramatic affect on the combustion characteristics and require careful consideration through a well-coordinated combustion research program. The current study investigates whether a coal-based aviation fuel, JP-900, which has the required thermal stability attributes, also satisfies the engine combustion requirements. Additionally, a Fischer-Tropsch fuel and a volumetric 50/50 blend of JP-8 and the Fischer-Tropsch fuel are studied. Previous studies of coal-based fuels have shown that soot production can be a significant problem due to the higher aromatic content than found in conventional fuels. However, improvements in the fuel refinement processes have helped reduce this problem. Experiments included in this current research effort involve studying the combustion instability patterns, the pollutant emission levels, and sooting propensity of coal-based and Fischer-Tropsch fuels as compared to JP-8. The experimental setup consists of an optically-accessible model gas turbine dump combustor, with provisions for laser extinction measurements, which utilizes a Delavan hollow-cone pressure atomizer for fuel injection.

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