Arc-heated Gas Flow Experiments For Hypersonic Propulsion Applications
Roseberry, Christopher Matthew
MetadataShow full item record
Although hydrogen is an attractive fuel for a hypersonic air-breathing vehicle in terms of reaction rate, flame temperature, and energy content per unit mass, the substantial tank volume required to store hydrogen imposes a drag penalty to performance that tends to offset these advantages. An alternative approach is to carry a hydrocarbon fuel and convert it on-board into a hydrogen-rich gas mixture to be injected into the engine combustors. To investigate this approach, the UTA Arc-Heated Wind Tunnel facility was modified to run on methane rather than the normally used nitrogen. Previously, this facility was extensively developed for the purpose of eventually performing experiments simulating scramjet engine flow along a single expansion ramp nozzle (SERN) in addition to more generalized applications. This formidable development process, which involved modifications to every existing subsystem along with the incorporation of new subsystems, is described in detail. Fortunately, only a minor plumbing reconfiguration was required to prepare the facility for the fuel reformation research. After a failure of the arc heater power supply, a 5.6 kW plasma-cutting torch was modified in order to continue the arc pyrolysis experiments. The outlet gas flow from the plasma torch was sampled and subsequently analyzed using gas chromatography. The experimental apparatus converted the methane feedstock almost completely into carbon, hydrogen and acetylene. A high yield of hydrogen, consisting of a product mole fraction of roughly 0.7, was consistently obtained. Unfortunately, the energy consumption of the apparatus was too excessive to be feasible for a flight vehicle. However, other researchers have pyrolyzed hydrocarbons using electric arcs with much less power input per unit mass.