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K. Kailasanath¤- Review of Propulsion Applications of Detonation Waves

K. Kailasanath¤- Review of Propulsion Applications of Detonation Waves

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Vol. 38, No. 9, September 2000
Review of Propulsion Applications of Detonation Waves
K. Kailasanath
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C. 20375
Applications of detonations to propulsion are reviewed. First, the advantages of the detonation cycle over theconstant pressure combustion cycle, typical of conventional propulsion engines, are discussed. Then the earlystudies of standing normal detonations, intermittent(or pulsed)detonations, rotating detonations, and obliqueshock-induced detonations are reviewed. This is followed by a brief discussion of detonation thrusters, laser-supported detonations and oblique detonation wave engines. Finally, a more detailed review of research duringthe past decade on ram accelerators and pulsed detonation engines is presented. The impact of the early work onthese recent developments and some of the outstanding issues are also discussed.
HE power of detonations has been well recognized.For exam-ple,ithasbeenestimatedthata20-m
detonationwaveoperatesat a power level equal to that received by the Earth from the sun.
The difculty in harnessing this power efciently has been a majorstumbling block inthe development of propulsion systemsbasedondetonations. Although there are no practicalpropulsion systems(tothe author’s knowledge)using detonations, it has not been due tolackofeffort.Aswillbediscussed,therehavebeenseriousattempts,at leastsince the 1940s.Inprinciple,detonationsareanextremelyefcientmeansofburn-ing a fuel
air mixture and releasing its chemical energy content.However, detonations have been explored for propulsion applica-tions only for the past 50 years or so
because of the difcultiesinvolved in rapidly mixing the fuel and air at high speeds and initi-ating and sustaining a detonation in a controlled manner in fuel
airmixtures. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the appli-cationof detonations topropulsion, and hence,itistimelytoreviewthe past work. There have beenseveralreviewpapers(e.g.,Refs.4
8)in the past dealing with particular applications of detonations topropulsion. Here, an attempt is made to include the work reportedin those papers, put them in the context of other related research,include additional studies, and extend the review to more recentpapers.In this paper, the status of propulsion applications of detonationsis reviewed. First, a cycle analysis is performed to show that the ef-ciencyof a detonation cycleisclosetothat of the constant-volumeHumphrey cycle, which is much more efcient than the constant-pressure Brayton cycle,characteristicof most conventional propul-sion systems. Other advantages of detonations are also discussed.Then a review of the early attempts to use detonations for propul-sionispresented.Aftera briefdiscussionof the possible reasonsforthe successes and failures of the early attempts, more recent work during the 1980s on oblique detonation wave engines is reviewed.This is followed by a detailedanalysis of the ram acceleratorin thedetonative mode and the pulsed detonation engine, a topic of greatcurrent interest. Finally, some observations from the lessons learntin the past and their potential implications for further developmentof detonations for propulsion applications are presented.
Why Detonations?
As mentioned before, very rapid materialand energy conversionisakeyfeatureofdetonations.Thisrapidburningormaterialconver-
Presented as Paper 99-1067 at the 37th Aerospace Sciences Meeting,Reno, NV, 11
14 January 1999; received 4 June 1999; revision received21 January 2000; accepted for publication 22 February 2000. This materialis declared a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyrightprotection in the United States.
Head, Center for Reactive Flowand Dynamical Systems, Laboratory forComputational Physics and Fluid Dynamics, Code 6410. Associate FellowAIAA.
sion rate,typicallytens of thousands of times fasterthan in a ame,canleadtoseveraladvantages forpropulsion, suchasmore compactand efcientsystems.Becauseofthe rapidityof theprocess,thereisnot enough time for pressure equilibration, and the overall processis thermodynamically closer to a constant volume process than theconstant pressure process typical of conventional propulsion sys-tems. To illustratethis point, three idealizedthermodynamic cyclesare compared in Fig. 1.For purposes of comparison, the only process that is differentin the three cycles is the mode of energy conversion or heat addi-tion. For the three cases, heat is added at constant pressure, con-stant volume, or in a detonation. Hence, the three cycles have beenreferred to as constant pressure, constant volume, and detonationcycle, respectively. The amount of heat added is kept the same forthe three cycles. In all cases, the fuel
air mixture is initially com-pressed adiabatically from 1 to 3 atm before heat addition. Afterheat addition, the products of combustion are expanded adiabati-callyto 1 atm. Finally, the system is returned to its initial state.Theworkdone duringthethreecyclesisobtained fromtheareaenclosed(Fig. 1). Because all processes except for heat addition have beenmaintained, the work done or relative thermodynamic efciency of the three combustion processes can be obtained by comparing thethree areas. For the efciency, the work output is divided by theheat input, which was set to be the same for the three cycles. Thethermodynamic efciencies for the three cycles are 27% for con-stant pressure, 47% for constant volume, and 49% for detonation.From Fig. 1 and the given values, we see that the thermodynamicefciencyof the detonation cycleiscloseto that of the constant vol-ume cycle. The process itselfis different with a decreasein specicvolume and a signicantly higher pressure being attained duringdetonations.One of the factors that could change the relative efciencies isthe amount of initial compression. To illustrate this, several suchcycles were computed with all factorsheld the same, except for theamount of initial compression. There is some change in the relativevalues, but in all of these casesthe efciency of the detonation pro-cessis closeto that of the constant volume processand signicantlybetter than that of the constant pressure process. Other factors thatcould affect the relative efciencies are the amount of energy con-version(heat addition)and the rates of initial compression(if any)and nal expansion. These do not drastically alter the results justpresented.Itisimportanttoemphasizethattheprecedingcomparisonsareforidealized thermodynamic cycles for systems operating in a steadystate and are not representative of any particular propulsion sys-tem. As will be discussed, attempts at developing engines usinga steady or stabilized detonation wave have been less successfulthan those taking advantage of the unsteady aspects of detonationwaves.Several other advantages have been stated for using detonationsin propulsion devices, and these will be brought up, as appropriate,when the different applications of detonations are discussed.
Early Research
Although basic studies and applications of detonation have beenundertaken for a verylong time,specic references
to propulsionappearintheliteratureonlyinthe1940s. Evenatthisearlytime,bothstanding(orstabilized)andunsteady(intermittent)detonationswereexplored. In the work of Hoffmann,
both gaseous(acetylene)andliquid(benzene)hydrocarbon fuels were employed with oxygen.Intermittentdetonation appears to have been achieved, but attemptstodetermine an optimum cycle frequencywere less successful.Thedevelopment of the concept of pulsed detonation engines(PDEs)has been tracedback to this pioneering work in a number of papers.The proposals of Roy
inspired further work in France on the de-sign of systems to stabilize combustion in supersonic ows(e.g.,Ref. 9). Soon work was also begun in the United States. Bitondoand Bollay
conducted an analytical study that indicated that a
Fig. 1 Comparison of idealized thermodynamic cycles for constantpressure, constant volume, and detonation modes of combustion.Fig. 2 Schematic of a standing detonation wave at the exit of a nozzle(from Ref. 14).Fig. 3 Schematic of an experimental setup for multicycle detonation studies(from Ref. 16).
pulsating detonation engine can be helpful for helicopter propul-sion. Gross,
Gross and Chinitz,
Nicholls et al.,
and Nichollsand Dabora
studied means to stabilize detonation waves for ap-plications to hypersonic ramjetpropulsion. The possibility of usingoblique detonations wasalsointroduced.
Morerecentextensionof theseideaswillbediscussedinthe sectionson“Oblique DetonationWave Engines”(ODWEs)and “Ram Accelerators.”
Stabilized Normal Detonations
First we briey look at some of the early experiments to stabi-lize detonation waves. A schematic of an experiment is shown inFig. 2(from Ref. 14). Cold hydrogen gas injected at the throat of a convergent
divergent nozzle mixes with the high-pressure, high-temperature air owing through the nozzle. Because of the shortresidencetime and rapid drop in temperature,combustion does notoccur within the nozzle. The nozzle is operated highly underex-panded, sothat further expansion occursoutside resultingina com-plex system of shock waves, a key feature of which is the Machdisk, a nearly normal shock. The conditions behind this Mach disk are such that ignition and energy releaseoccur just behind it. If theenergy release is closely coupled to the shock wave, a detonationwill be established. Whether or not a detonation is establishedwilldepend on the induction time behind the Mach disk, which in turnwilldepend on the pressure,temperature,and mixture composition.Applicationof such steady-statedetonations topropulsion wereex-plored and performance comparable to conventional ramjets werereported for appreciably higher ight Mach numbers.
Intermittent Detonations
Concurrent with their work on stabilized detonation waves,Nicholls etal.
alsoexploredtheconceptofintermittent(orpulsed)detonation wavesforpropulsion applications.Both single-cycleandmulticycle operations with hydrogen and acetylene as fuels andoxygen and air as oxidizers were demonstrated. The basic setupwas a simple detonation tube, open at one end with coannular fueland oxidizer injection at the closed end as shown in Fig. 3(fromRef. 16). Thrust, fuel ow, airow, and temperature measurementswere made over a range of operating conditions. When the spark plug was located 2 in.(5.08 cm)or 5 in.(12.7 cm)from the end of the mixing plane, spasmodic ring was observed suggesting prob-lems withfuel
air mixing. However, with the spark plug located10in.(25.4 cm)downstream, periodic detonations for a range of mix-tures were reported.For a hydrogen
air mixture, a specic impulseof 2100 s was attained along with a cycle frequency of 35 Hz. Theyalsopresenteda very simplied theoreticalanalysis that gave over-all results very much in agreement with their experimental data onhydrogen but less with the case of acetylene.
However, they real-izedthat the agreement was partly fortuitous because the measuredthrust-time history was signicantly different from the theoreticalresult(Fig. 4, from Ref.16).Note that they alsoattemptedinitiationfrom the open end but were not successful.A setup similar to that of Nicholls et al.
was constructed byKrzycki,
whousedautomotivesparkplugsforignition.Hedemon-strated operation at 60 Hz with propane
air mixtures, but there issomedoubt whetherthedevicewasoperatinginthedetonativemode
Fig. 4 Comparison of theoretical and experimental results on timehistories of detonation tube acceleration for a 50% acetylene
oxygendetonation(from Ref. 16).Fig. 5 Possible conguration for a rotating detonation wave engine(from Ref. 19).
or merelyasa pulse jetengine due tothe low initiationenergiesem-ployed. Hisoverallconclusion wasthatalthough thrustwaspossiblefrom such a device, practicalapplications were not promising.
Rotating Detonation
Another interestingconcept that was explored was that of a rotat-ingdetonationwaverocketmotor.
Heregaseousfuel(hydrogenor methane)and oxygen werecontinuously injectedinto an annularcombustion chamber and ignited using spark plugs. A unidirec-tional detonation wave was createdaftertransition from a deagra-tion wave and the exhaust gases were expelled through an annularnozzle.Such asystemisshown inFig. 5(fromRef.19). The accom-panying analysis indicated that the ideal performance is essentiallythe sameasthat of a conventional rocket engine, aslong asthe aver-agechamberconditions and fuelsusedwerethe same.Furthermore,if there was signicant mixing between the burned and unburnedgases, the performance could actually be degraded.
Further work was done to extend the analysis to two-phase detonations
and toprovide an explanation of some cases of shock-related combustioninstabilitiesobservedinliquidrocketmotors.
However,multicycleexperimental operation does not appear to have been achieved.
Oblique Shock-Induced Detonations
The work of Gross,
Gross and Chinitz,
Nicholls et al.,
Nicholls and Dabora,
and Dunlap et al.
led to an extensive ex-
Fig.6 Schematicofanormal shock-inducedcombustion(from Ref.6).Fig. 7 Schematic of an oblique shock-induced combustion(fromRef. 6).
perimental study using a Mach 3 tunnel at the Arnold Engineer-ing Development Center. A detailed review of this work duringthe period 1959
1968 is available,
and hence only a brief discus-sion is given here. The shock bottle experiments of Nicholls andDabora
(Fig. 2)were reproduced, and a different congurationwas developed. In this conguration
Fig. 6(from Ref. 6)
combus-tiontakesplacebehind a normal shock generatedby oblique shocksinduced by wedges. It has been argued that a detonation does nottake place in this conguration because the normal shock wave isindependently generated by the wedges and is not directly affectedby the combustion.
The term“shock-induced combustion” was in-troduced todescribesuch phenomena. Whether a detonation occursor not, theirwork ledtothe realizationthat a normal shock-induceddetonation, a Chapman
J)detonation, was not essentialforpropulsion.
Fig.7(fromRef. 6)
and concluded that oblique-shock-induced combustion isexperimentally feasible. This was a signicant conclusion becauseit has led to the future development of the ODWE and, to someextent,tothe ramaccelerator.Both of thesepropulsion applicationswill be discussed later in some detail.
Detonation Thrusters
In the 1970s a substantial effort
was undertaken at the JetPropulsion Laboratory(JPL)to investigate the feasibility of usingdetonative propulsion for thrusters in the dense or high-pressure at-mospheres of solarsystemplanets.The primary reasonfor studyingthis concept was the potential for high performance for situationswhere the external pressures are high. Under such conditions, con-ventional thrusters become inefcient due to the lowering of thecombustor toambient pressure ratio. The JPL concept involved ll-ing nozzles with hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, or carbon dioxide tosimulateplanetaryatmospheresand thenintermittentlydetonating asmallquantity ofcondensed-phaseexplosivesattheapexofthenoz-zle. Thrust is produced primarily from the momentum of the llergases set into motion by the blast wave and by the expansion of the detonation products. Both theoretical analysis and experimentsshowedthatasmallquantityofexplosivesdetonatedwithinthenoz-zlelled with gaseswas sufcienttoproduce high specic impulse.Differenttypes of nozzles and gases of different molecular weightswere utilized.With a short-plug nozzle,therewas a slight reductionin specic impulse with increasing ambient pressure but the resultswere virtually independent of the molecular weight of the ambi-ent gases. However, with a long-cone nozzle, there was a progres-sive increase in the specic impulse with increasing ambient pres-sure for high molecular weight gases(carbon dioxide and nitrogen)and a decreasewith increasingpressure for lower molecular weightgases(helium).Aprimaryconclusion fromthework atJPL wasthat

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