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Enabling Hydrogen-enriched burner technology for gas turbines through advanced measurement and simulation

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Facilitating Europe’s transition to a reliable, cost-effective energy system

A rich database of advanced experimental measurements will help researchers design next-generation combustor technology.

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As Europe aims to become both the world’s first carbon-neutral continent and energy-independent, it is investing heavily in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. But to be truly sustainable, the clean energy produced by these sources must be efficiently used during both peak and off-peak demand periods. “Renewable energy excels when it is put to immediate use,” says Isaac Boxx, a researcher at the Institute of Combustion Technology at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). “The challenge is figuring out how to effectively use the power generated during off-peak demand periods that isn’t immediately needed.” One option is to use this excess energy to produce hydrogen. “Hydrogen can be mixed with natural gas and distributed to energy suppliers,” explains Boxx. “However, this requires that it be combusted in conventional gas turbine power plants, a process that could impact turbulent flame dynamics, combustion stability and the formation of pollutants.” With the support of the EU-funded HyBurn project, Boxx is leading an effort to advance our understanding of the structure and dynamics of turbulent flames of hydrogen-enriched natural gas in the high-pressure, high-thermal load conditions found in a gas turbine combustor. “In doing so, we aim to help facilitate Europe’s transition to a reliable, cost-effective energy system based on carbon-free renewable power generation,” he adds.

A rich database of advanced experimental measurements

One of the main roadblocks to studying hydrogen-enriched flames has been a lack of access to quality experimental data. “The technical challenges and specialised infrastructure required to perform such measurements in the conditions found in a gas turbine combustor put the task well beyond the capabilities of most of the world’s research labs,” notes Boxx. This lack of reliable experimental data on flames in engine-relevant conditions limited the ability of numerical simulation and modelling groups to develop, test and validate the cost-effective predictive analysis tools needed to design next-generation combustor technology, he explains. “HyBurn changed this by providing a unique and extremely rich database of advanced experimental measurements in the high-pressure, high-thermal load conditions found in gas turbine combustors.”

Paving the way to a cleaner, brighter future for Europe

Creating this database started with the development of advanced high-speed laser imaging tools. Researchers then used these tools to study flames in DLR’s unique, optically accessible high-pressure combustion test facilities. The data was shared with researchers from both academia and industry. “By sharing this data, we’ve provided a challenging and complex test case against which multiple groups can compare their simulation and modelling results,” remarks Boxx. “This provides a way for both academic and industrial stakeholders to communicate effectively, share results and spark innovation without having to share valuable and closely guarded intellectual property.” According to Boxx, this collaboration paves the way to a cleaner, brighter future for Europe. “The tools developed during this European Research Council supported project will support Europe’s transition to a robust, reliable and carbon-free energy supply,” he concludes. “I am really proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to this effort.”


HyBurn, renewable energy, combustor technology, sustainable, clean energy, hydrogen, natural gas, gas turbine power plants, gas turbine combustors, intellectual property

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