Georgia Tech researchers have created a simple combustor (combustion chamber where fuel is burned to power an engine or gas turbine) designed to burn fuel in a wide range of devices ― with next to no emission of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO), two of the primary causes of air pollution. The device has a simpler design than existing state-of-the-art combustors and could be manufactured and maintained at a much lower cost, making it more affordable in everything from jet engines and power plants to home water heaters.
A comparison of Georgia Tech’s combustor with a traditional combustor: (L) A traditional combustor mixes fuel and air before they are injected into the combustion chamber. (R) Tech’s combustor injects the fuel and air separately into the combustor.
The design can be adapted for use in a variety of applications, including something as large as a power generating gas turbine or as small as a water heater in a home.
To reduce emissions in existing combustors, fuel is premixed with a large amount of swirling air flow prior to injection into the combustor. This requires complex and expensive designs, and the combustion process often excites instabilities that damage the system.
But Georgia Tech’s design eliminates the complexity associated with premixing the fuel and air by injecting the fuel and air separately into the combustor while its shape forces them to mix with one another and with combustion products before ignition occurs.
The project was funded by the NASA University Research Engineering Technology Institute (URETI) Center on Aeropropulsion and Power and Georgia Tech.
Resource: Simple design makes ultra-low emission combustion more efficient, affordable and stable, Georgia Institute of Technology News Room, June 21, 2006