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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Combustion and Magnetohydrodynamic Processes in Advanced Pulse Detonation Rocket Engines

  • Author(s): Cole, Lord Kahil
  • Advisor(s): Karagozian, Ann R
  • et al.

A number of promising alternative rocket propulsion concepts have been developed over the past two decades that take advantage of unsteady combustion waves in order to produce thrust. These concepts include the Pulse Detonation Rocket Engine (PDRE), in which repetitive ignition, propagation, and reflection of detonations and shocks can create a high pressure chamber from which gases may be exhausted in a controlled manner. The Pulse Detonation Rocket Induced Magnetohydrodynamic Ejector (PDRIME) is a modification of the basic PDRE concept, developed by Cambier (1998), which has the potential for performance improvements based on magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) thrust augmentation. The PDRIME has the advantage of both low combustion chamber seeding pressure, per the PDRE concept, and efficient energy distribution in the system, per the rocket-induced MHD ejector (RIME) concept of Cole, et al. (1995).

In the initial part of this thesis, we explore flow and performance characteristics of different configurations of the PDRIME, assuming quasi-one-dimensional transient flow and global representations of the effects of MHD phenomena on the gas dynamics. By utilizing high-order accurate solvers, we thus are able o investigate the fundamental physical processes associated with the PDRIME and PDRE concepts and identify potentially promising operating regimes.

In the second part of this investigation, the detailed coupling of detonations and electric and magnetic fields are explored. First, a one-dimensional spark-ignited detonation with complex reaction kinetics is fully evaluated and the mechanisms for the different instabilities are analyzed. It is found that complex kinetics in addition to sufficient spatial resolution are required to be able to quantify high frequency as well as low frequency detonation instability modes. Armed with this quantitative understanding, we then examine the interaction of a propagating detonation and the applied MHD, both in one-dimensional and two-dimensional transient simulations. The dynamics of the detonation are found to be affected by the application of magnetic and electric fields. We find that the regularity of one-dimensional cesium-seeded detonations can be ignificantly altered by reasonable applied magnetic fields (Bz &le 8T ), but that it takes a stronger applied field (Bz > 16T ) to significantly alter the cellular structure and detonation velocity of a two-dimensional detonation in the time in which these phenomena were observed. This observation is likely attributed to the additional coupling of the two-dimensional detonation with the transverse waves, which are not captured in the one-dimensional simulations. Future studies involving full ionization kinetics including collisional-radiative processes, will be used to examine these processes in further detail.

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