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Turbulent combustion models for CFD in the year 2000

A summary and update of:
CFD as applied to combustion: past, present, and future; March 1999


Brian Spalding, of CHAM Ltd

December, 1999

Paper presented at I Mech E, London, December 14,1999
in "CFD - Technical Developments and future Trends"
Also available as: www.cham.co.uk/phoenics/d_polis/d_lecs/cmbstr5/cmbstr5.htm

Abstract of the March 1999 lecture

Contents of the present lecture

  1. Kolmogorov's "bright idea"
  2. Presuming the PDFs; another "good idea at the time"
  3. The direct route to the goal
  4. Relation to "flamelet" and other models
  5. Practical consequences
  6. Concluding remarks
  7. References

1. Kolmogorov's "bright idea"

2. Presuming the PDFs; another "good idea at the time"

That knowledge of the PDFs was needed for predicting reaction rates was obvious in the early 1970s; and the first idea was that it might suffice to presume their shape, and devise an additional differential equation so as to find out everything elsew hich was necessary.

This notion led to:

All of these involved the supposition that any turbulent mixture could be treated as the inter-mingling of two fluids, the states and mixture fractions of which required to be computed from easy-to-formulate differential equations.

This represented an advance on Kolmogorov's "ignore-the-PDFs" approach; but it was not good enough.

[Somebody might have thought at the time: If two is not enough, what about four? or eight? or sixteen? etc? Refine the grid, dummy!

But that did not happen for another 24 years!]

So the next invention (by Bray, 1980) was the "flamelet" model, which involves the presumption that the turbulent mixture consist of:
  1. fully-burned gas at the local time-average fuel-air ratio;
  2. fully-unburned gas at the local time-average fuel-air ratio;
  3. and a small amount of intermediate-state gas with a PDF which is the same as that prevailing in laminar steadily-propagating one-dimensional flames.

This enables CFD/chemistry specialists to perform expensive calculations; but, in the present author's view, has no other merit (if that is the right word) whatever.

3. The direct route to the goal

4. Relation to "flamelet" and other models

Since the "laminar-flamelet model LFM" is the most "advanced" which is currently used by engineering companies, it is worth exploring the relations between it and MFM.

This has been done in a recent paper, which shows that MFM reduces to LFM in restricted circumstances; but it has a much wider range of validity.

The highlights of the just-mentioned paper can be seen by clicking here.

5. Practical consequences

MFM is not just a scientist's plaything: it can already be used to enable better designs to be distinguished from worse ones.

A recent paper illustrates this by showing how MFM enables the smoke-generating propensities of gas-turbine-combustor designs to be predicted.

The highlights of this paper can be seen by clicking here.

6. Concluding remarks

It is the author's view that all time spent on CFD calculations incorporating the "presumed-PDF" approach is wasted; and, if design decisions are based on their outcome, the desisions will be correct only by chance.

Those who have considered but do not use the alternative, namely calculating the PDFs, argue only:

To these arguments it can only be answered that:

7. References

  1. DB Spalding (1971) "Mixing and chemical reaction in confined turbulent flames"; 13th International Symposium on Combustion, pp 649-657 The Combustion Institute
  2. DB Spalding (1971) "Concentration fluctuations in a round turbulent free jet"; J Chem Eng Sci, vol 26, p 95
  3. BF Magnussen and BH Hjertager (1976) "On mathematical modelling of turbulent combustion with special emphasis on soot formation and combustion". 16th Int. Symposium on Combustion, pp 719-729 The Combustion Institute
  4. Bray KNC in Topics in Applied Physics, PA Libby and FA Williams, Springer Verlag, New York, 1980, p115
  5. SB Pope (1982) Combustion Science and Technology vol 28, p131
  6. C Dopazo and EE O'Brien (1974)
    Acta Astronautica vol 1, p1239
  7. DB Spalding (1999) "The use of CFD in the design and development of gas-turbine combustors"; www.cham.co.uk; shortcuts; CFD
  8. DB Spalding (1995) "Models of turbulent combustion" Proc. 2nd Colloquium on Process Simulation, pp 1-15 Helsinki University of Technology, Espoo, Finland
  9. DB Spalding (1998) The simulation of smoke generation in a 3-D combustor, by means of the multi-fluid model of turbulent chemical reaction: Paper presented at the "Leading-Edge-Technologies Seminar" on "Turbulent combustion of Gases and Liquids", organised by the Energy-Transfer and Thermofluid-Mechanics Groups of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at Lincoln, England, December 15-16, 1998
  10. Spalding DB (1999) "Connexions between the Multi-Fluid and Flamelet models of turbulent combustion"; www.cham.co.uk; shortcuts; MFM