Numerical analysis of flame instabilities in narrow channels: Laminar premixed methane/air combustion

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Premixed flames propagating within small channels show complex combustion phenomena that differ from flame propagation at conventional scales. Available experimental and numerical studies have documented stationary, non-stationary, or asymmetric modes that depend on properties of the incoming reactant flow as well as channel geometry and wall temperatures. This work seeks to illuminate mechanisms leading to symmetry breaking and limit cycle behavior that are fundamental to these combustion modes. Specifically, four cases of lean premixed methane/air combustion—two equivalence ratios (0.53 and 0.7) and two channel widths (2 mm and 5 mm)—are investigated in a 2D configuration with constant channel length and bulk inlet velocity, where numerical simulations are performed using detailed chemistry. External wall heating is simulated by imposing a linear temperature gradient as a boundary condition on both walls. In the 2 mm channel, both equivalence ratios produce flames that stabilize with symmetric flame fronts after propagating upstream. In the 5 mm channel, flame fronts start symmetrically, although symmetry is broken almost immediately after ignition. Further, 5 mm channels produce non-stationary combustion modes with dramatically different limit cycles: in the leaner case ( φ = 0.53), the asymmetric flame front flops periodically, whereas in the richer case ( φ = 0.7), flames with repetitive extinctions and ignitions (FREI) are observed. To further understand the flame dynamics, reaction fronts and flame fronts are captured and differentiated. Results show that the loss of flame front symmetry originates in a region close to the flame cusp, where flow and chemical characteristics exhibit large gradients and curvatures. Limit cycle behavior is illuminated by investigating flame edges that are formed along the wall, and accompany local or global ignition and extinction processes. In the flopping mode ( φ = 0.53), local ignition and extinction in regions adjacent to the wall result in oblique fronts that advance and recede along the wall and redirect the flow ahead of the flame. In the FREI mode, asymmetric flames propagate much farther upstream, where they experience global extinction due to heat losses, and re-ignite far downstream with opposite flame front orientation. In both cases, an interaction of flow and chemical effects drives the asymmetric limit cycles. The lack of instabilities and asymmetries for the 2mm cases is attributed to insufficient wall separation, which is of the same order of magnitude as the flame thickness.

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International Journal of Spray and Combustion Dynamics

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