Compact Augmented Spark Igniters For Liquid Rocket Engines
Tinker, Darren C
The objective of this dissertation is to characterize augmented spark impinging (torch) igniters. Torch igniters inject propellants into a small prechamber where a spark igniter imparts the activation energy to initiate combustion. The flame stabilizes within the prechamber and exits into the main combustion chamber where it ignites the main flow directly or by mixing with a coaxial flow to create a secondary flame. The underlying phenomena that promote reliable ignition are multifaceted and required a broad scope of investigations. Initial efforts focused on spark discharges across an annular geometry. Gaseous propellent projects the electrical arc toward the prechamber, where the arc and the thermal energy is imparted to the surrounding fluid then meets with a combustible mixture. Discharges are parametrically examined against pressure, spark-gap size, and exciter types to emulate transient engine startup. The energy imparted to the flow, approximate velocity, and distance traveled by the exhaust plume are determined. Spark quenching (no energy deposition) and its effects on perceived versus actual measurements are shown. Results outline the prechamber target zone where a combustible mixture is necessary for ignition. Next, three-dimensional, time-accurate, and nonreacting computational fluid dynamics simulations assess effects of geometric and mass flow differences on the size, location, and composition of a combustible mixture. Fluid dynamic phenomena are elucidated. Correlations between nondimensional variables are found. Results are coupled with a conservation-law analysis to produce novel objective functions. Lastly, a full-scale, modular torch igniter is tested. Injector sizes, mixture ratios, and injector momentum ratios are systematically varied to map ignition probability and ignition delay. Results show the importance of local mixture ratios, provide injector momentum ratios guidelines, and demonstrate reliable ignition of core mixture ratios typically outside flammability limits. The deliverable of this project is not a torch igniter or derivative thereof. Instead, this dissertation produces novel objective-functions for igniter design. These equations are functions of variables that may be constrained by engine-level requirements, physics, and experimental results from this work. They provide a foundation for future igniter design and will minimize iterative processes from the design cycle for next-generation ignition hardware.