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Experimental study on flame stability of biogas /


hydrogen combustion

Zhunqing Hu*, Xin Zhang


Beijing Key Laboratory of Powertrain for New Energy Vehicle, School of Mechanical, Electronic and Control
Engineering, Beijing Jiaotong University, Beijing 100044, PR China

article info abstract

Article history: The flame stability of biogas blended with hydrogen combustion was experimentally
Received 10 July 2018 studied in the constant volume combustion bomb. The variations of characteristic pa-
Received in revised form rameters of flame instability and effect of pressure and fuel component proportion on
30 July 2018 flame shape were analyzed. The experimental results show that the flame instability in-
Accepted 3 August 2018 creases with the decrease of equivalence ratio, and the global flame stability decreases
Available online xxx with increase of CO2 fractions. With increase of initial pressure of biogas and hydrogen
mixture, Markstein length decreases, hydrodynamic instability decreases, but the thermal
Keywords: mass diffusion instability has no effect. The effect of increase of the hydrogen ratio on
Flame stability flame stability is more obvious, with the increase of initial pressure and hydrogen ratio
Biogas together, both hydrodynamic instability and thermal mass diffusion instability increase.
Hydrogen This research can provide experimental basis for the design and development of biogas
Constant volume combustion bomb blended with hydrogen engines.
© 2018 Hydrogen Energy Publications LLC. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

adding some hydrogen has good effect on improvement of


Introduction flame propagation speed [3]. Therefore, it is necessary to study
the flame stability of biogas/hydrogen engine combustion.
With the shortage of energy and the worsening of the envi- The flame will form unstable flame cells under certain
ronment, the automobile engine has been restricted by the conditions, which was observed first in the experiment by
increasingly stringent emission regulations. The development Smithells and Ingle [4], but no further study was carried out at
of renewable clean fuel has become one of the hot topics in that time. Markstein [5] made flame cell with a tube burner,
the field of engine research. Biogas has been used more and and determined the relationship between the molecular
more widely for its strong availability, wide source and clean weight and the cell size of the fuel. He found that the hydro-
combustion [1]. However, because of its high non hydrocarbon carbon fuel with different carbon atoms have the opposite
content and complex composition which vary with the effect on the instability of the flame cell. His study also
change of temperature and pressure, the combustion speed is showed that there were two modes of flame instability: hy-
slow, the stability of flame is poor, and the fire is easy to lose drodynamics and thermal mass diffusion instability respec-
fire, so it is restricted in the application of engine [2]. In order tively. Konnov [6] carried out an experimental study on the
to compensate for the defects of the biogas in engine appli- flame cell instability with a plane flame burner, and observed
cation, during the combustion process of biogas engine, the flame cells and measured the velocity of the cell flame and

* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: zhqhu@bjtu.edu.cn (Z. Hu).
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2018.08.011
0360-3199/© 2018 Hydrogen Energy Publications LLC. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article in press as: Hu Z, Zhang X, Experimental study on flame stability of biogas / hydrogen combustion, International
Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2018.08.011
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the number of the cells. Gorman [7] observed the flame cells flame, there is a corresponding change in the appearance,
using a plane flame burner, and his results show that the stability and heat transfer characteristics of the flame. Addi-
pattern of different flame cells depends on the equivalent tion of hydrogen significantly enhances the stability of the
ratio of the mixture and the flow velocity of the burner outlet. biogas flame, and the initial 5% hydrogen addition is found to
Law [8] has obtained the critical conditions of flame cell pat- be more efficient in the stability enhancement than the other
terns for natural gas, acetylene and propane, and their 5% hydrogen addition. Cardona [19] investigated measure-
research results show that when the composition and equiv- ments of the laminar burning velocities of biogas and a biogas/
alence ratio of propane blended with hydrogen are definite, propane/hydrogen mixture with normal and oxygen-enriched
the smooth flame appears wrinkles as the initial pressure air while varying the air/fuel ratio. An increase in the laminar
increases. Groff [9] obtained the laminar flame cells of pro- burning velocities of both fuels is reported by enriching air
pane/air in constant volume bomb using high speed schlieren with oxygen, a phenomenon that is explained by the
photography system, and their results show that the H2/O2/N2 increased reactivity of the mixture. Some other studies related
and C3H8/O2/N2 flame will be affected by the hydrodynamic to this subject are reported [20e22].
instability under conditions of stable heat diffusion, and the For biogas blended with hydrogen, there are few studies on
unstable flame cells appear. Bechtold and Matalon [10] found the flame stability at present. The CO2 and hydrogen in biogas
that when the flame starts to spread out from the ignition are very important for the instability of flame, especially the
core, the flame cell instability is restrained by the stretch force appearance and development of flame cells. This study is
at small flame radius, but as the flame gradually spreads expected to clarify the behaviors of flame stability with
outward, the flame radius increases gradually and the stretch various fractions and initial pressures of biogas and hydrogen
strength decreases, reaching a critical point. At this time, the mixtures. The study will enrich the understanding of com-
stability of the flame cells is no longer suppressed by the bustion flame stability for the biogas blended with hydrogen
stretch rate, and many cells appear at the same time and fill and provide a practical guide to engine application.
the whole flame surface. The appearance of this phenomenon
depends on the interaction of hydrodynamics and thermal Test system
mass diffusion instability. Kwon and others [11] have studied
the effect of pressure on the flame stability of hydrogen- The schematic diagram of the experimental platform for
oxygen-nitrogen mixture in a high-pressure constant vol- constant volume combustion bomb is shown in Fig. 1, which
ume combustion bomb, and their research shows that with consists of a constant volume combustion bomb, high-speed
the increase of initial pressure, the thickness of the flame is schlieren photography system, temperature control system,
reduced, and the instability of the flame is enhanced. Bradly intake and exhaust system, ignition system, and dynamic
[12] quantified the shape of flame cells, studied the flame ac- data acquisition system. The constant volume combustion
celeration caused by the increase of the area of the flame bomb consists of a cylinder of 1.884L, a transient pressure
surface during the large scale explosion, and his results sensor, an ignition electrode, a jet. The high speed schlieren
showed that the large scale experiments were difficult to be photography system uses schlieren and high-speed camera to
carried out and analyzed because of the effect of radiation obtain flame image. The schlieren method can convert the
heat loss and buoyancy. Miao and others [13] studied the space phase distribution into visible image. The image ob-
laminar combustion characteristic of natural gas-hydrogen - tained by schlieren method can reflect the inhomogeneity of
dilute gas (N2/CO2) when the hydrogen ratio is 20% and 80%, the physical quantity such as the refractive index and density.
obtained Markstein Length, and their research showed that The flame photos obtained by schlieren method reflect the
the effect of initial pressure on flame stability is also crucial. change of the density gradient on the flame surface in the
Jeongjae [14] reported the stability characteristics of attached constant volume combustion bomb, and the flame image ob-
hydrogen and syngas (H2/CO) turbulent jet flames with coaxial tained by schlieren can capture a clear flame front. The high
air, the detachment stability limit of the syngas single jet speed photogrammetry is used to capture light from the
flame was found to decrease with increasing amount of car- schlierer, and get the image of the flame propagation process.
bon monoxide in the fuel. Um et al. [15] found that the blow off The temperature control system includes a premixed box, a
limits improve with NH3 substitution in H2eair flames, due to temperature controller, a heater, and a thermocouple tem-
decrease of the maximum flame temperature and reduction in perature sensor. The intake system is composed of cylinders,
the concentration of light radicals, and the chemical effects of a premixing box and an intake manifold. The exhaust system
NH3 substitution on flame structure are dominant. Miao [16] is composed of an exhaust pipe and a vacuum pump. The
investigated that with hydrogen addition, the inverse diffu- ignition system includes an electronic control unit, an ignition
sion flame can sustain burning with a lower global energy drive circuit, etc. The dynamic data acquisition system in-
than without it. The most significant stabilization effect was cludes the combustion pressure acquisition unit, the ion
obtained with 30% hydrogen addition for complete extinction current acquisition module, etc.
limit and 30%e90% for local extinction limit. The corre- Biogas is mainly composed of methane and carbon dioxide,
sponding fuel jet velocity at complete extinction limit also in this experiment, the mixture of CNG and CO2 was used to
decreases with hydrogen addition. Leung [17] found that with simulate biogas, the volume fraction of CO2 in a mixture is
the presence of a significant amount of CO2 in the fuel, the expressed as FCO2 ,
stability limits were very low and the flames can only be sta-
VCO2
bilized over a very small range of co-flowing air velocities. FCO2 ¼ (1)
VCNG þ VH2 þ Vair þ VCO2
Zhen [18] reported upon hydrogen addition in the biogas

Please cite this article in press as: Hu Z, Zhang X, Experimental study on flame stability of biogas / hydrogen combustion, International
Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2018.08.011
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 8 ) 1 e8 3

Fig. 1 e Experimental schematic.

where VCO2 is the volume of CO2 contained in the fuel/air, VCNG , flame instability decreases. Markstein length is a global
VH2 and Vair are the volumes of compressed natural gas, characterization parameter which can comprehensively
hydrogen and air, respectively. The hydrogen ratio in mixture reflect hydrodynamic instability and thermal mass diffusion
is defined as FH2 , which represents the volume ratio of H2 in instability.
mixture, as shown in Eq. (2), Fig. 2 shows the stability characterization parameters of
biogas at different equivalence ratios and different CO2
VH2
FH2 ¼ (2) fractions. Where the initial pressure is Pin ¼ 0:1MPa, the
VCNG þ VCO2 þ VH2
initial temperature is T ¼ 297K, and H2 fraction is FH2 ¼ 0.
From Fig. 2(a), it can be seen that the flame thickness in-
creases with the increase of the CO2 component in the
Results and analysis
mixture, and it is the smallest at the theoretical equivalent
ratio, which is illustrated that the hydrodynamic instability
Variations of characteristic parameters of flame instability
increases with the increase of CO2 fraction, while the effect
of equivalence ratio on hydrodynamic instability is not
Hydrodynamic instability is caused by the thermal expansion
obvious. As shown in Fig. 2(b), with the increase of CO2
of the flame front, which is usually characterized by expan-
content, the Lewis number decreases, with the increase of
sion ratio and flame thickness. The characteristic parameter
the equivalent ratio, the Lewis number increases, this just
of thermal mass diffusion instability is Lewis number Le.
shows that the thermal mass diffusion instability of the
When Le < 1, the flame instability increases, while Le > 1, the

Fig. 2 e Characteristic parameter of instability of premixed biogas flame.

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flame increase with the increase of CO2 content and lean Effect of pressure and fuel component proportion on flame
burn mixture combustion. shape
The thermal mass diffusion instability is determined by
the maximum diffusion coefficient in the reactants, when the Fig. 4 displays the image of biogas blended with hydrogen at
component with the maximum relative diffusion coefficient is different CO2 fraction. It can be observed that for FCO2 ¼ 0 the
lacking in the reactants, the premixed laminar flame will spherical flame is smooth at the radius of 9 mm, but a trans-
become more unstable under the influence of the preferential verse crack occurs when the radius is 15 mm. As the flame
diffusion, and the mass diffusion coefficient between CH4 and radius is 18 mm, the flame surface is filled with transverse
CO2 in the biogas is higher than that between O2 and CO2. cracks, which means that the flame has large wavelength flame
When the equivalent ratio increases, the CH4 increases rela- cells. After that, the flame cells of large wavelengths divide
tively, which leads to the increase of the components with the continuously with the development of the time. Until the flame
maximum diffusion coefficient, the diffusion instability is radius reaches 28 mm, the flame surface is covered with flame
weakened, so the flame will tend to be stable. The Lewis cells, and the wavelength of the flame cell is obviously smaller
number is obviously affected by CO2, because the thermal than that of the unstable flame cell just appeared. When CO2
diffusivity of CO2 is small, and the thermal diffusivity of the fraction increased to 5%, compared with FCO2 ¼ 0, the time of
mixed fuel decreases with the increase of CO2 in biogas, so the transverse crack on the flame surface was delayed, at the flame
Lewis number of the mixture is also reduced accordingly. In radius reaches 18 mm, the flame surface will appear transverse
general, with the increase of CO2, the thermal and mass crack. And the flame surface is still dominated by a large
diffusion instability of the flame increases, the hydrodynamic wavelength flame cell until the flame radius is 30 mm. When
instability weakens, and the heat and mass diffusion insta- the flame radius is 35 mm, the flame cell begins to split into
bility in the lean burn is stronger. many small wavelengths. When the CO2 fraction increased to
Fig. 3 gives the variation of the characteristic parameters 10%, the flame front surface became smoother, and only a few
of flame stability. Where the initial temperature is T ¼ 297K, cracks appeared on the flame surface after the flame radius is
the equivalent ratio is f ¼ 1:0, and H2 fraction is FH2 ¼ 20%. As 28 mm. As the flame radius is 35 mm, the flame surface is still a
illustrates in Fig. 3(a), the initial pressure has a great influ- few flame cells of large wavelengths. The increase of CO2
ence on the flame thickness. With the increase of the initial fraction makes the flame surface smoother, which indicates
pressure, the flame thickness decreases rapidly, which in- that the weakening effect of CO2 fraction on the hydrodynamic
dicates that the flame surface becomes thinner and the hy- instability eventually dominates, and leads to the weakening of
drodynamic instability is enhanced. With increase of CO2 the global flame stability.
content, the flame thickness increases gradually, which Fig. 5 shows the variety of flame shape caused by hydro-
means the hydrodynamic instability weakens with the in- dynamic instability. When the initial pressure is 0.1 MPa and
crease of CO2 content in the mixture of biogas and hydrogen. the flame radius is from 9 mm to 35 mm, the flame front faces
Fig. 3(b) presents the Markstein length of different initial keep smooth, indicating that the flame is globally stable.
pressure and different CO2 content. It is shown that the When the initial pressure increases to 0.2 MPa, a slight wrinkle
initial pressure has a great influence on the global flame appears on the flame surface, which means that the flame
stability. With the increase of initial pressure, the Markstein surface tends to be unstable. When the initial pressure con-
length decreases rapidly, especially after the pressure is tinues to increase to 0.4 MPa and the flame radius is 15 mm,
greater than 0.2 MPa, the Markstein length is less than 0, cracks appear in the longitudinal and transverse directions of
which indicated that the flame had been unstable at this the flame front, i.e., the interlaced flame cells appear, and the
time. Under the working conditions shown in Fig. 3(b), the wavelength of these flame cells increases with the develop-
increase of CO2 content leads to a slight increase in the global ment of the flame. With the development of the flame, the
stability of the flame. flame cells on the flame surface continues to increase, and

Fig. 3 e Characteristic parameter of instability of premixed biogas flame at different CO2 fractions.

Please cite this article in press as: Hu Z, Zhang X, Experimental study on flame stability of biogas / hydrogen combustion, International
Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2018.08.011
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 8 ) 1 e8 5

Fig. 4 e Schliren photos of hydrogen blended biogas flame at different CO2 fractions ðPin ¼ 0:2MPa; f ¼ 0:9; FH2 ¼ 60%Þ.

Fig. 5 e The effect of initial pressure on the evolution of flame affected by hydrodynamic instability ðf ¼ 0:8; FCO2 ¼ 5%;
FH2 ¼ 0%Þ.

new cracks appear on the flame surface when the flame radius propagation of the spherical flame, the diameter of the flame
is increased, but these new cracks are not derived from the becomes larger, the curvature of the flame becomes smaller,
original flame cells, but from the new folds caused by the and the effect of curvature on the maintenance of flame sta-
hydrodynamic instability. When the initial pressure continues bility is weakened, thus causing the flame rises obviously
to increase to 0.6 MPa, the crack on the flame surface is more when the flame radius is increased.
obvious, the flame cell still appears at the smaller flame Fig. 6 displays the effect of hydrogen blending ratio on
radius, the wavelength increases with the increase of the flame shape at initial pressure of 0.1 MPa and 0.2 MPa (hy-
flame radius, and the flame surface rises slightly. drodynamic instability is relatively weak at low pressure)
The effect of buoyancy is more obvious with the increase of when the proportion of CO2 is 5%. At the initial pressure of
the flame radius. This is because with the outward 0.1 MPa, the increase of hydrogen ratio leads to the emergence

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Fig. 6 e The effect of hydrogen fractions on the global flame stability ðFCO2 ¼ 5%Þ.

of large wavelength wrinkles on the flame surface, but this radius, and its maintenance effect on the flame surface is
change is not obvious. At the initial pressure of 0.2 MPa, the reduced accordingly. Therefore, the flame surfaces no longer
effect of increase of the hydrogen ratio on flame surface is maintain circular shapes after the flame radius reaches
more obvious, and the transverse wrinkles begin to appear 30 mm, and the flame surfaces cover with wrinkles. When the
when the flame radius is 18 mm, then the large wavelength equivalent is 0.7, there is a similar trend in the flame surface,
flame cells gradually increase with the development of the at the flame radius of 18 mm, the wrinkles on the flame sur-
flame, and these large flame cells begin to split with the face are more obvious, and then the long wavelength flame
development of time, until the flame radius is 37 mm, the cells divide into a number of irregular flame cells. At the flame
flame surface has been split into multiple homogeneous small radius of 30 mm, the further development of the flame cells
wavelength flame cells. causes the peak to protrude from the circular flame surface, as
Fig. 7 shows the effect of equivalence ratio on the flame shown in the red circle. When the equivalence ratio is further
stability of biogas and hydrogen mixture at the initial pressure increased to 0.8, the flame surface becomes relatively smooth,
of 0.1 MPa. It can be seen that the flame surface is generally in until the flame radius of 30 mm there are only a few wrinkles.
an unsy state during lean burn combustion, and the flame When the equivalence ratio is 1.2, the flame surface is
instability increases with the decrease of equivalence ratio. completely smooth without cracks and wrinkles. Therefore, it
When the equivalence ratio is 0.6, the flame surface with a can be seen from Fig. 7 that the global stability of lean burn
flame radius of 15 mm also maintains a nearly circular shape, combustion is worse, and the flame instability increases with
but longitudinal cracks have appeared on the flame surface, the decrease of equivalence ratio.
and with the development of time, more and more cracks on Fig. 8 illustrates the variation of flame shape for increasing
the flame surface (i.e., long wavelengths) have been found, the initial pressure and hydrogen ratio together to increase
which have a great influence on the flame shape. Because of hydrodynamic instability and thermal mass diffusion insta-
the wrinkle, concave or convex surfaces caused by the insta- bility. It can be seen that the effect of hydrodynamic insta-
bility of the flame, the flame surface is seriously pulled, and bility and thermal mass diffusion instability on the flame
the stretch ratio decreases with the increase of the flame surface is obvious. At the low initial pressure and hydrogen

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i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 8 ) 1 e8 7

Fig. 7 e The effect of equivalence ratio on the evolution of hydrogen blended biogases flameðPin ¼ 0:1MPa; FCO2 ¼ 0%;
FH2 ¼ 60%Þ.

Fig. 8 e The evolution of flame affected by coupled hydrodynamic instability and thermal diffusion instability ðFCO2 ¼ 5%; f ¼
0:8Þ.

content, the flame surface appears wrinkles in the later stage hydrogen ratio, the flame surface showed strong instability in
of flame development, and the flame surface is covered with the early stage, and the flame surface did not appear obvious
uniform visible mesoscale cells when the flame radius de- cracks. When the flame radius reaches 28 mm, the flame cells
velops to 48 mm. With the increase of initial pressure and are densely distributed on the flame surface, where these

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Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2018.08.011