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Laser absorption spectroscopy techniques for determining gas properties in high pressure rocket combustors


This dissertation describes laser absorption spectroscopy methods developed for temperature and carbon oxide (CO and CO2) sensing in high-pressure, fuel-rich combustion conditions of hydrocarbon-fueled bipropellant rockets. The scope of the work includes fundamental studies of spectroscopic interactions at high gas density, development of unique laser tuning and signal processing methods, and application of prototype sensors to rocket combustion devices under investigation at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Edwards, CA. Infrared vibrational spectra of CO and CO2 were probed using tunable semi-conductor lasers to infer gas properties. Initial sensor design targeted the absorption spectra of CO near 4.98 μm, selected to minimize spectral interference with other combustion gas species at the extreme temperatures (> 3000 K) and pressures (> 50 atm) of a kerosene-fueled rocket combustion environment. Successful measurements were conducted up to 70 bar utilizing a scanned wavelength modulation spectroscopy technique, creating a new pressure-limit for quantitative in situ species sensing in a combustion device. At higher pressures (which were tested), collisional-broadening effects blended the targeted absorption transitions, causing differential absorption to diminish and reducing the signal-to-noise ratio of the measurements.

To overcome the pressure-constraints, a more advanced laser absorption sensing strategy was developed, targeting the vibrational bandheads of CO near 2.3 μm and CO2 near 4.2 μm and exploiting the band narrowing effects of collisional line mixing to counter collisional broadening. Spectral line mixing—typically observed at high gas densities in which intermolecular collisions are sufficiently frequent and strong to cause a shift in energy level populations—corresponds to a transfer of absorption intensity from weak to strong absorption regions, inducing a narrowing of spectral features. This non-ideal phenomenon is more prominent in spectrally dense regions, such as bandheads. Targeting infrared bandheads to exploit line mixing, measurements of CO and CO2 concentration were demonstrated over a range of high pressures up to 105 bar in a single-element-injector RP-2/CH4-GOx rocket combustor. To make such measurements quantitative,spectroscopic models accounting line mixing effects have been developed utilizing a high-enthalpy shock tube; these models are then employed for interpretation of measured absorption signals for quantitative temperature and species sensing.

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