There has been growing interest for alternative fuels in aviation in the past three years. An alternative fuel can be defined by the triplet ‘feedstock-process-fuel’. Presently, the triplet with one of the highest technology readiness levels for gas turbine (GT) applications involves using natural gas in a Fischer-Tropsch thermo-chemical process to derive synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK). Generic Fischer-Tropsch fuels were approved in September 2009 for use as 50% blends with Jet A-1. Gas-to-Liquid (GTL), as a final product of the aforementioned triplet meets those specifications and is in a deployment stage, with one plant currently under construction in Qatar. The product of a Fischer-Tropsch process, such as GTL, is feedstock agnostic. As such, its composition can be tailored to meet or exceed some of the current specifications for jet fuel. Investigating the potential benefits of composition changes in GTL-like jet fuel defines the general scope of our research program.

This article presents the results of tests conducted on the Rolls-Royce plc TRL3 sub-atmospheric altitude ignition facility in Derby, UK. The test campaign aimed at investigating the impact of the carbon number distribution (narrow/wide cut), the iso- to normal-paraffin ratio and the total cyclic paraffin content characterizing the surrogate GTL-like fuel composition on the ignition and combustion performance of a single sector advanced GT combustor and fuel injector under simulated altitude conditions.

The detailed diagnostics consisted of simultaneous high-speed imaging of hydroxyl (OH*) and methylidyne (CH*) chemiluminescence and broadband luminescence measurements of the ignition process. By observing the processes in the visible and the UV simultaneously, it was possible to distinguish between radiation (originating from e.g. soot) and the chemiluminescent emissions from the OH* and CH* radicals. These are markers for chemical activity in the different regions of the combustor and therefore provide information concerning the temporal and spatial development of the flame kernel.


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  1. T. Mosbach, G. Gebel, P. Le Clercq, D. Fyffe, J. Moran, R. Sadr, K. Kannaiyan, A. Al-Sharshani, GTL fuels and their effects on aircraft aas turbine altitude ignition – detailed diagnostics, QFARF Proceedings, 2010, EEO3.
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