US ARL conducts gas turbine combustor experiment using X-rays

16 April 2018 (Last Updated April 16th, 2018 11:43)

The US Army Research Laboratory's (ARL) Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Propulsion has carried out the first ever experiment in a gas turbine combustor using X-rays.

US ARL conducts gas turbine combustor experiment using X-rays
Experiment conducted using powerful X-rays to see inside a gas turbine combustor during ignition Credit: US Army / David McNally.

The US Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL) Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Propulsion has carried out the first ever experiment in a gas turbine combustor using X-rays.

Data obtained from the experiment will help upgrade gas turbine engine designs for higher power, density, and efficiency, the researchers said.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign department of mechanical science and engineering associate professor Dr Tonghun Lee said: “This is the strongest X-ray source in the world.

“We’re here to do spray imaging inside a gas turbine combustor as relevant to the army.”

“In the long-term, it is expected that data collected from the experiment will enable researchers to design more optimised combustor systems for the future.”

The combustor inside a gas turbine engine is fed high-pressure air that is heated by constant pressure. Then, the air passes from the combustor through the nozzle guide vanes to the turbine, producing thrust.

Researchers used a ‘powerful’ X-ray source to penetrate and understand how the strands of burning fuel break up into small droplets.

The data collected during the experiment will be used for numerical simulations that will improve the understanding of gas turbine combustors.

Lee added: “We are trying to understand exactly what occurs inside the gas turbine combustor to understand how it responds to different operating conditions.

“We’re trying to get an understanding of the physics, which to this day we have been speculating, we can really visualise using this X-ray source.

“We want to understand what we’re doing right now, understanding the fuel impact. When soldiers are off in a different location and they have different types of fuels, how will it impact the combustor they have?”

In the long-term, it is expected that data collected from the experiment will enable researchers to design more optimised combustor systems for the future, said Lee.