In a continuing program of research and development, a system has been demonstrated that makes high-speed measurements of thermal infrared radiance from gas-turbine engine exhaust streams. When a gas-turbine engine is operated under conditions that minimize the emission of pollutants, there is a risk of crossing the boundary from stable to unstable combustion. Combustion instability can lead to engine damage and even catastrophic failure. Sensor systems of the type under development could provide valuable data during the development testing of gas-turbine engines or of engine components.

A system of the type under development makes high-speed measurements of thermal infrared radiance from the engine exhaust stream. The sensors of this system can be mounted outside the engine, which eliminates the need for engine case penetrations typical with other engine dynamics monitors. This is an important advantage in that turbine engine manufacturers consider such penetrations to be very undesirable.

A prototype infrared sensor system has been built and demonstrated on a turbine engine. This system includes rugged and inexpensive near-infrared sensors and filters that select wavelengths of infrared radiation for high sensitivity. In experiments, low-frequency signatures were consistently observed in the detector outputs. Under some conditions, the signatures also included frequency components having one or two radiance cycles per engine revolution. Although it has yet to be verified, it is thought that the low-frequency signatures may be associated with bulk-mode combustion instabilities or flow instabilities in the compressor section of the engine, while the engine-revolution-related signatures may be indicative of mechanical problems in the engine. The system also demonstrated the ability to detect transient high-radiance events. These events indicate hot spots in the exhaust stream and were found to increase in frequency during engine acceleration.

This work was done by James R. Markham, David F. Marran, and James J. Scire, Jr., of Advanced Fuel Research, Inc., for Glenn Research Center. Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

NASA Glenn Research Center
Innovative Partnerships Office
Attn: Steve Fedor
Mail Stop 4-8
21000 Brookpark Road
Ohio 44135.

Refer to LEW-17355.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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