Combustion and direct energy conversion in a micro-combustor



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Texas A&M University


The push toward the miniaturization of electromechanical devices and the resulting need for micro-power generation (milliwatts to watts) with low-weight, long-life devices has led to the recent development of the field of micro-scale combustion. Since batteries have low specific energy (~200 kJ/kg) and liquid hydrocarbon fuels have a very high specific energy (~50000 kJ/kg), a miniaturized power-generating device, even with a relatively inefficient conversion of hydrocarbon fuels to power, would result in increased lifetime and/or reduced weight of an electronic or mechanical system that currently requires batteries for power. Energy conversion from chemical energy to electrical energy without any moving parts can be achieved by a thermophotovoltaic (TPV) system. The TPV system requires a radiation source which is provided by a micro-combustor. Because of the high surface area to volume ratio for micro-combustor, there is high heat loss (proportional to area) compared to heat generation (proportional to volume). Thus the quenching and flammability problems are more critical in a micro-scale combustor. Hence innovative schemes are required to improve the performance of micro-combustion. In the current study, a micro-scale counter flow combustor with heat recirculation is adapted to improve the flame stability in combustion modeled for possible application to a TPV system. The micro-combustor consists of two annular tubes with an inner tube of diameter 3 mm and 30 mm long and an outer tube of 4.2 mm diameter and 30 mm long. The inner tube is supplied with a cold premixed combustible mixture, ignited and burnt. The hot produced gases are then allowed to flow through outer tube which supplies heat to inner tube via convection and conduction. The hot outer tube radiates heat to the TPV system. Methane is selected as the fuel. The model parameters include the following: diameter d , inlet velocity u , equivalence ratio ???? and heat recirculation efficiency ???? between the hot outer flow and cold inner flow. The predicted performance results are as followings: the lean flammability limit increased from 7.69% to 7.86% and the quenching diameter decreased from 1.3 mm to 0.9 mm when heat recirculation was employed. The overall energy conversion efficiency of current configuration is about 2.56.