Understanding the role of flow dynamics in thermoacoustic combustion instability

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20 Scopus citations


Thermoacoustic combustion instability is one of the most challenging operational issues in several high-performance, low-emissions combustion technologies, including gas turbines, aircraft engines, rockets, and industrial boilers. Driven by the coupling between combustor acoustics and flame heat release rate fluctuations, thermoacoustic combustion instability can lead to reduced operability, increased emissions, and, in the most extreme cases, catastrophic failure of combustor components. The feedback loop between acoustics and combustion is often facilitated by fluid mechanic oscillations, referred to as “velocity coupling,” whereby acoustic oscillations drive flow fluctuations, which in turn create fluctuations in the flame. The character of these fluid mechanic oscillations is highly dependent on the structure of the flow field and the receptivity of the flow to external excitation. Combustor flow fields use features like fluid recirculation and shear to enhance flame holding and reduce emissions, but these are also the same features that can make the flow receptive to acoustic excitation or even drive self-excited oscillations. In this paper, we discuss the basics of thermoacoustic instability with a focus on the role of hydrodynamic oscillations in typical combustor flows. To facilitate this discussion, we explore the hydrodynamic instability characteristics of several key combustor unit flows (wakes, swirling jets, etc.) and show how the hydrodynamic stability of a flow is an important consideration in determining a combustor's propensity for thermoacoustic oscillations. Several examples of coupling between hydrodynamics and thermoacoustics are discussed to illustrate this important link. The paper concludes by discussing the potential for designing flow fields that are thermoacoustic instability resistant, either through a reduction in the receptivity of the flow or through nonlinear coupling mechanisms by which self-excited flow instabilities can suppress velocity-coupled combustion oscillations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4583-4610
Number of pages28
JournalProceedings of the Combustion Institute
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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