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Electrical Aspects of Impinging Flames

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This dissertation examines the use of electric fields as one mechanism for controlling combustion as flames are partially extinguished when impinging on nearby surfaces. Electrical aspects of flames, specifically, the production of chemi-ions in hydrocarbon flames and the use of convective flows driven by these ions, have been investigated in a wide range of applications in prior work but despite this fairly comprehensive effort to study electrical aspects of combustion, relatively little research has focused on electrical phenomena near flame extinguishment, nor for flames near impingement surfaces. Electrical impinging flames have complex properties under global influences of ion-driven winds and flow field disturbances from the impingement surface. Challenges of measurements when an electric field is applied in the system have limited an understanding of changes to the flame behavior and species concentrations caused by the field. This research initially characterizes the ability of high voltage power supplies to respond on sufficiently short time scales to permit real time electrical flame actuation. The study then characterizes the influence of an electric field on the impinging flame shape, ion current and flow field of the thermal plume associated with the flame. The more significant further examinations can be separated into two parts: 1) the potential for using electric fields to control the release of carbon monoxide (CO) from surface-impinging flames, and 2) an investigation of controlling electrically the heat transfer to a plate on which the flame impinges. Carbon monoxide (CO) results from the incomplete oxidation of hydrocarbon fuels and, while CO can be desirable in some syngas processes, it is usually a dangerous emission from forest fires, gas heaters, gas stoves, or furnaces where insufficient oxygen in the core reaction does not fully oxidize the fuel to carbon dioxide and water. Determining how carbon monoxide is released and how heat transfer from the flame to the plate can be controlled using the electric field are the two main goals of this research. Multiple diagnostic techniques are employed such as OH chemiluminescence to identify the reaction zone, OH PLIF to characterize the location of this radical species, CO released from the flame, IR imaging and OH PLIF thermometry to understand the surface and gas temperature distribution, respectively. The principal finding is that carbon monoxide release from an impinging diffusion flame results from the escape of carbon monoxide created on the fuel side of the flame along the boundary layer near the surface where it avoids oxidation by OH, which sits to the air side of the reaction sheet interface. In addition, the plate proximity to the flame has a stronger influence on the emission of toxic carbon monoxide than does the electric field strength. There is, however, a narrow region of burner to surface distance where the electric field is most effective. The results also show that heat transfer can be spatially concentrated effectively using an electric field driven ion wind, particularly at some burner to surface distances.

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