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Lean combustion for cleaner aviation

Emissions from aviation activities impact local air quality and the global environment in general. Improving combustion technology is an important means of controlling such emissions.
Lean combustion for cleaner aviation
The use of sufficiently fuel-lean mixtures in an internal combustion engine offers high efficiency as well as low emissions. As such, breakthroughs in lean combustion could well mitigate NOx emissions during the landing and take-off (LTO) cycle as well as at cruise speeds. For all the positive elements of lean combustion, however, injection systems are of critical importance for reaping the benefits of its use.

The EU-funded 'Towards lean combustion' (TLC) project made this very issue its technological focus with a view toward improving levels of lean combustion. The TLC consortium brought together 19 partners from 6 countries across Europe, including research centres, universities, laboratories and aero-engine combustor technology experts.

Efforts were directed at achieving sufficient maturity for the single annular combustor application, and sights were set on significant reductions in NOx emissions both for local and global air quality. A far-reaching range of experiments aimed at realising such goals were performed on mono-sector or tubular combustors.

Researchers worked to evaluate how their performance and efficiency could be affected by the particular characteristics of gaseous emissions and soot formation. The latter, mostly made up of carbon particles, is produced during incomplete combustion where insufficient oxygen levels don't allow for the fuel to be fully oxidised.This approach also focused on their application in experiments involving different concepts of injection systems.

TLC team members experimentally evaluated the full range of operating conditions and assessed auto-ignition and flashback risk issues as well as lean extinction limits. Advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation was employed to exploit data obtained from the experiments, thus facilitating the calibration of the latest codes in emissions predictions.

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