# Predicting the unstable modes of a simple combustor

J.-F. Parmentier and T. Poinsot
CERFACS
IMF Toulouse
May 14, 2011
1 Introduction and objectives
Coupling mechanisms between acoustic waves and ﬂames have become a central issue in the
development of many modern combustion systems because of both environmental problems
(noise) and destructive acoustic interactions that can be generated in combustors. Numerical
tools are essential in many ﬂame/acoustics studies. However, a theoretical background in
acoustics, especially in acoustics for reacting ﬂows, is mandatory to tackle such problems.
The objective of this course is to present simple methods to predict the unstable modes of
a combustor composed of tubes. This course contains:
• a video showing the classical Rijke tube experiment,
• the theoretical derivation of the acoustic equations, and applied to a simple combustor
containing two connected ducts,
• a one-dimensional code that solves acoustic modes in a network of ducts (named Sound-
tube).
This tutorial provides methods to predict the unstable modes (their frequency and structure
ie the ﬁeld of pressure and velocity perturbations vs abscissa) of a simple combustor consisting
of two connected ducts (Fig. 1). The ﬁrst duct (index 1) is called the ’inlet ’ (length a), the
second one (index 2) the ’combustor’ (length b). Such a geometry covers quite a few real cases
and being able to ﬁnd the modes of such a system is a baseline exercice for anyone working on
combustion stability.
1
Figure 1: The double-duct burner: the left duct is the inlet (it usually contains cold gases), the
right duct is the combustion chamber (usually ﬁlled with burnt hot gases).
The Combustor-Mode tool can be used together with this text. Alternatively you may also
ﬁnd it useful to write your own solver since this is not a diﬃcult task.
The derivation of the equations follows closely the chapter 8 of Poinsot and Veynante’s book
[3] where network equations are described. However, it is simpler here because only two ducts
are considered (Fig. 1). For those who ﬁnd the derivation of [3] too general and complicated,
this oﬀers a much more compact example !
The conﬁguration of Fig. 1 includes multiple complexities found in real burners: the sections
of both ducts S
1
and S
2
are diﬀerent, the gases in each duct are diﬀerent with diﬀerent densities
ρ
1
and ρ
2
, temperatures T
1
and T
2
(in general T
2
> T
1
) and diﬀerent sound speeds (c
1
and c
2
).
The pressure is the same in the two ducts corresponding to subsonic combustion. The Mach
number is small and neglected in all equations.
Moreover the tutorial and its associated tool correspond to the simplest prototypes of the
codes found in industry and laboratories designed to ﬁnd the acoustic modes of combustors. It
is however recommended to begin with these tools because they contain most of the complexity
associated with the full codes. Moreover, Combustor-Mode tool can also be useful to test your
own acoustic solver.
The tutorial is organized as follows:
• Section 2 presents the experiment and the objectives of the tutorial.
• Section 3 develops the basic modelling of the acoustic inside one duct.
• Section 4 explains both the jump relations between two ducts with the application to the
classical Helmholtz resonnator, and the eﬀect of a ﬂame.
2
• Finally Section 5 is the application of previous equations to the Rijke tube presented in
the video.
2 Experimental case
To do:
Watch carefully the video showing the Rijke experiment. The objective of this tutorial is to
understand what happens and to be able to predict the stability of modes. Which physical
phenomena are interacting?
These experiments are examples of the interaction between a ﬂame and acoustic waves. To
understand then, one should ﬁrst understand the acoustic modes of a simple tube and then
take into account the interaction of the ﬂame with the acoustic. The tutorial begins with the
description of the acoustic in a tube, then a network of tubes and ﬁnally the contribution of
ﬂames to the whole system.
3 A simple duct
3.1 Theoretical development
3.1.1 Inside the duct
To describe the ﬂow inside a tube we start from the Navier-Stokes equation with the following
assumptions:
• No combustion.
• Zero volume heat sources.
• Zero volume forces.
• Negligible viscous forces: no viscous stresses are considered in the volume. Moreover only
the normal velocity goes to zero near walls (’slip walls’).
• Linear acoustics: acoustics variables are indexed ”i” and supposed to be small compared
to reference quantities indexed ”0”: p
1
p
0
, ρ
1
ρ
0
, u
1
c
0
.
3
• isentropic variations. The energy equation may then be replaced by the isentropic relation:
p = ρ
γ
e
s
0
/Cv
• Low-speed mean ﬂow: u
0
= 0.
• One dimensional ﬂow.
One should note that the reference speed is not the speed of the mean ﬂow but the sound
speed c
0
. Under this hypothesis, mass and momentum equations are reduced to:

t
ρ
1
+ ρ
0

x
u
1
= 0 (1)
ρ
0

t
u
1
+ ∂
x
p
1
= 0 (2)
Lineraizing the isentropic relation provides a direct relation between pressure and density per-
turbations:
p
1
= c
2
0
ρ
1
(3)
where c
0
=

γp
0

0
is the sound speed. For a perfect gas one obtains:
c
0
=

γ r T
0
(4)
where r = R/W (R is the constant of perfect gases and W the molar mass).
Density variations may be eliminated using Eq. (3) and two variables (for examples p
1
and
u
1
) are suﬃcient to describe the acoustic waves:

t
p
1
+ ρ
0
c
2
0

x
u
1
= 0 (5)
ρ
0

t
u
1
+ ∂
x
p
1
= 0 (6)
Reporting one of the two equations into the other leads to wave equations:

tt
p
1
−c
2
0

xx
p
1
= 0 (7)

tt
u
1
−c
2
0

xx
u
1
= 0 (8)
Equations 7 and 8 justify that c
0
is called the sound speed. Solutions of theses equations writes
as the superposition of two traveling waves in opposite directions:
p
1
= f
+
(t −x/c
0
) + f

(t + x/c
0
) (9)
ρ
0
c
0
u
1
= f
+
(t −x/c
0
) −f

(t + x/c
0
) (10)
4
Looking for harmonic solutions, p
1
and u
1
writes:
p
1
= A
+
e
i(kx−ωt)
+ A

e
i(−kx−ωt)
(11)
ρ
0
c
0
u
1
= A
+
e
i(kx−ωt)
−A

e
i(−kx−ωt)
(12)
where ω is the complex pulsation, k = ω/c
0
is the complex wave number and A
+
and A

are
complex numbers. The wave length λ is deﬁned as k = 2π/λ. For each frequency f = ω/(2π),
pressure and velocity ﬂuctuations are determined by the values of A
+
and A

.
Another common decomposition of p
1
and u
1
can be made using sinusoidal functions:
p
1
= (Acos(kx) + B sin(kx)) e
−iωt
(13)
ρ
0
c
0
u
1
= i (Asin(kx) −B cos(kx)) e
−iωt
(14)
where A and B are linked to A
+
and A

by:
A = A
+
+ A

(15)
B = i (A
+
−A

) (16)
The decomposition in sinusoidal functions simpliﬁes the calculations when considering station-
ary waves.
The acoustic energy equations can be obtained from Eqs. (5) and (6):

t
e
1
+ ∂
x
f
1
= 0 (17)
with:
e
1
=
1
2
ρ
0
u
2
1
+
1
2
p
2
1
ρ
0
c
2
0
(18)
f
1
= p
1
u
1
(19)
The density of acoustic energy is e
1
and its ﬂux is f
1
.
3.1.2 Boundary conditions
Once the equations inside a duct have been derived, the boundary conditions must be set. To
this end, the reﬂection coeﬃcient is usually deﬁned:
R =
f
+
(t −x/c
0
)
f

(t + x/c
0
)
=
A
+
e
i kx
A

e
−i kx
(20)
5
Some authors use the acoustic impedance:
Z =
1
ρ
0
c
0
p
1
u
1
(21)
The acoustic impedance Z and the reﬂection coeﬃcient R are linked by:
R =
Z + 1
Z −1
(22)
Four classical boundary conditions are:
Rigid wall u
1
= 0 R = 1 (23)
Free outlet on a large vessel p
1
= 0 R = −1 (24)
Inﬁnite duct on the right side Non reﬂecting R = ∞ (25)
Inﬁnite duct on the left side Non reﬂecting R = 0 (26)
A practical consequence of rigid wall or free outlet boundary conditions is that the ﬂux of
acoustic energy f
1
= p
1
u
1
is null at these boundaries.
3.2 Standing and traveling waves
Modulus and phase are usually used to characterise waves inside ducts. Considering a pure
traveling wave p
1
= A
+
e
i kx
with k being real, we have:
|
p
1
A
+
| = 1 (27)
φ

p
1
A
+

= k x (28)
Equations. (27) and (28) show that the modulus is constant for a pure traveling wave while its
phase varies linearly. In this equation the time has been omitted on purpose.
Now considering a pure standing wave Acos(kx) with k being real, we have:
|
p
1
A
| = |cos(kx)| (29)
φ

p
1
A

= 0 for k x ≤ π (30)
= π for π ≤ k x ≤ 2 π
As a consequence, the modulus changes with the position for a standing wave, while its phase
is a piecewise-constant function.
6
3.3 Practical consequences
3.3.1 Open channel eigenfrequency
We consider the case of a simple duct of length L open at its two sides. Using Eq. (13), the
pressure inside the duct can be expressed as:
p
1
= (Acos(kx) + B sin(kx)) (31)
Using boundary conditions p
1
= 0 at x = 0 and x = L leads to the relation:
sin(kL) = 0 (32)
Equation 32 is called the dispersion relation and shows that only some frequencies are compat-
ible with the boundary conditions. In this case kL = pπ with p ∈ Z and pressure and velocity
ﬂuctuations are given by:
p
1
= B sin(p π
x
L
) (33)
ρ
0
c
0
u
1
= −i B cos(p π
x
L
) (34)
Equations 33 and 34 are called the structure of the modes and p is the order of the mode.
Compatible frequencies are called eigenfrequencies and are given by:
f =
k c
0

= p
c
0
2L
(35)
To do:
1. Go to the Combustor-Mode tool and use it to ﬁnd the eigenfrequencies and structure of
the modes of this case.
2. Derive analytically the eigenfrequencies and structure of the modes of a duct open at one
side and closed at the other and use the tool to check the derivation.
7
3.3.2 Damped and ampliﬁed modes
In two previously developed cases the ﬂux of acoustic energy was null at the boundaries. As
a consequence the acoustic energy was constant in time. However, in practice, the reﬂexion
coeﬃcients at both ends of the combustor have a modulus which is not unity so that the modes
will have a non zero imaginary part. If the modulus of the reﬂexion coeﬃcients is less than
unity, the mode will be damped. If it is more than unity (i.e. if the wave entering the domain
is larger than the one leaving the domain), the mode can be ampliﬁed and have a positive
imaginary part.
To do:
1. Go to the Combustor-Mode tool and use it to ﬁnd the eigenfrequencies and structures of
modes when the inlet reﬂection coeﬃcient is equal to 0.39 (this value corresponds to a
case where the inlet mass ﬂow rate is imposed, for example by a sonic nozzle). There will
be losses at the inlet and we expect the mode to be damped.
2. Try the same with a coeﬃcient set to 1.39.
Questions:
1. What is the sign of the imaginary part of eigenfrequencies ?
2. How does the phase evolve (constant or linearly) ?
4 Connection between two ducts
The case of a double-duct burner (Fig. 1) is considered. The left duct is the inlet (it usually
contains cold gases), the second one the combustion chamber (usually ﬁlled with burnt hot
gases). A ﬂame is located at the intersection (x = a). To be able to calculate eigenfrequencies
of such cases, both the eﬀect of a change of section and a ﬂame should be understood.
8
4.1 Change of sections
4.1.1 Jump conditions
In each duct, pressure and velocity ﬂuctuations can be described using Eqs. 13 and 14 developed
previously. Pressure and velocity ﬂuctuations on in the left and right ducts are linked by:
p
1
= p
2
(36)
S
1
u
1
= S
2
u
2
(37)
where p
i
and u
i
denotes respectively the pressure and velocity ﬂuctuations in the duct i of
section S
i
. Equation (36) states the continuity of pressure while Eq. (37) states the continuity
of the volume ﬂow rate (and not the mass !).
4.1.2 The Helmholtz resonator
A classical application used in combustion applications is the Helmholtz resonator to damp
modes. The geometry is described in Fig. 2.
Figure 2: The Helmholtz resonator. Figure from [3]
To do:
1. Assuming that the section ratio is equal to zero, what does the boundary conditions
become for the two ducts ? What are the corresponding eigenfrequencies ?
2. Use the Combustor-Mode tool to calculate eigenfrequencies for a ratio of section of 0.1,
a
1
= 0.2 m and a
2
= 0.05 m. Is the result in agreement with the hypothesis of a zero
section ratio ?
9
3. Derive the dispersion relation and ﬁnd an analytical expression for eigenfrequency assum-
ing that this frequency and the section ratio are low.
The reason why Helmholtz resonators are used in combustion chambers is that their damping
coeﬃcient for frequencies close to f
H
(the lowest eigenfrequency) is high: they inhibit pressure
oscillations at f
H
near the neck outlet. If they are installed on a combustion chamber (as shown
in Fig. 3) they can damp a combustion instability created elsewhere in the combustor at f
H
.
Unfortunately, this property is satisﬁed only at the Helmholtz resonator frequency f
H
so that
these devices must be tuned for each oscillation frequency of the chamber.
Figure 3: The use of a Helmholtz resonator as a damping device. Figure from [3]
4.2 Flame inﬂuence
Flames in the burner are assumed to be planar and compact: their thickness is negligible com-
pared to the acoustic wave-length. At low mach number, jump conditions through the ﬂames
yield equality of pressure and an extra volume source term due to unsteady combustion [3]:
p
1
(x
+
f
) = p
1
(x

f
) (38)
S
+
u
1
(x
+
f
) = S

u
1
(x

f
) +
γ
u
−1
γ
u
p
0
.

T,i
(39)
where x
f
is the location of the ﬂame, p
0
is the mean pressure and γ
u
is the heat capacity ratio
of fresh gases. The unsteady heat release
.

T,i
is expressed in terms of the velocity using a n−τ
model [1]:
γ
u
−1
γ
u
p
0
.

T,i
= ne
iωτ
S

u
1
(x

f
) (40)
10
where the interaction index n and the delay τ are input data describing the interaction of the
ﬂame with acoustics. Reporting Eq. (40) into Eq. (39) leads to:
p
1
(x
+
f
) = p
1
(x

f
) (41)
S
+
u
1
(x
+
f
) = S

u
1
(x

f
) (1 + ne
iωτ
) (42)
The acoustic energy conservation equation is modiﬁed to account for the ﬂame presence:

t
e
1
+ ∂
x
f
1
=
γ −1
γ p
0
p
1
.
ω
1
T
(43)
where
.
ω
1
T
is the local unsteady heat released. The integration of Eq. (43) over whole the domain
d
dt

e
1
dV = −

p
1
u
1
dS + nS

p
1
(x
f
) u
1
(x

f
) e
iωτ
(44)
5 The Rijke tube
Now we are able to derive a stability criteria for the initial experiment.
To do:
1. Derive the dispersion relation for an open ended tube with a ﬂame inside it.
2. Assume a low ﬂame inﬂuence and ﬁnd an analytic expression for the ﬁrst mode (n 1
so that k L = π + with 1).
3. Use the tool to verify your predictions.
4. Derive a stability criterium from the low ﬂame inﬂuence analysis.
5. Plot structure of pressure and velocity in this case and use energy conservation Eq. (44)
to interpret the stability criterium.
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6 Conclusions
Finding the eigenmodes of a typical two-duct combustor is relatively easy using a simple tool
like Combustor-Mode. You can use it to evaluate frequencies of multiple combustors as long as
they can be approximated to this simple ’double-duct’ conﬁguration. In more complex cases,
you will have to use more sophisticated solvers: multiple ducts connections or 3D Helmholtz
solvers.
12
References
[1] M. Fleiﬁl, A.M. Annaswamy, Z.A. Ghoneim and AF Ghoniem. Combustion and Flame. vol
106, number 4, 1996, pp487–510.
[2] K.K. Kuo. Principles of Combustion. John Wiley, New York, 1986.
[3] T. Poinsot and D. Veynante. Theoretical and numerical combustion. R.T. Edwards, 2nd
edition., 2005. JX out.
[4] F.A. Williams. Combustion theory. Benjamin Cummings, Menlo Park, CA, 1985.
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