Electric field effects in combustion with non-thermal plasma

by Tiernan Albert Casey

Institution: University of California – Berkeley
Year: 2016
Keywords: Mechanical engineering; Electromagnetics; Plasma physics; Combustion; Flames; Ignition; Plasma; Simulations; Transport
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2132197
Full text PDF: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/9ts42049


Chemically reacting zones such as flames act as sources of charged species and can thus be considered as weakly-ionized plasmas. As such, the action of an externally applied electric field has the potential to affect the dynamics of reaction zones by enhancing transport, altering the local chemical composition, activating reaction pathways, and by providing additional thermal energy through the interaction of electrons with neutral molecules. To investigate these effects, one-dimensional simulations of reacting flows are performed including the treatment of charged species transport and non-thermal electron chemistry using a modified reacting fluid solver. A particular area of interest is that of plasma assisted ignition, which is investigated in a canonical one-dimensional configuration. An incipient ignition kernel, formed by localized energy deposition into a lean mixture of methane and air at atmospheric pressure, is subjected to sub-breakdown electric fields by applied voltages across the domain, resulting in non-thermal behavior of the electron sub-fluid formed during the discharge. Strong electric fields cause charged species to be rapidly transported from the ignition zone across the domain in opposite directions as charge fronts, augmenting the magnitude of the electric field in the fresh gas during the pulse through a dynamic-electrode effect. This phenomenon results in an increase in the energy of the electrons in the fresh mixture with increasing time, accelerating electron impact dissociation processes. A semi-analytic model to represent this dynamic electrode effect is constructed to highlight the relative simplicity of the electrodynamic problem admitted by the far more detailed chemistry and transport. Enhanced fuel and oxidizer decomposition due to electron impact dissociation and interaction with excited neutrals generate a pool of radicals, mostly O and H, in the fresh gas ahead of the flame's preheat zone. The effect of nanosecond pulses are to increase the mass of fuel burned at equivalent times relative to the unsupported ignition through enhanced radical generation, resulting in an increased heat release rate in the immediate aftermath of the pulse.