Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Frank Lu


The successful implementation of a PDE running on fuel and air mixtures will require fast-acting fuel-air injection and mixing techniques, detonation initiation techniques such as DDT enhancing devices or a pre-detonator, an effective ignition system that can sustain repeated firing at high rates and a fast and capable, closed-loop control system. The control system requires high-speed transducers for real-time monitoring of the PDE and the detection of the detonation wave speed. It is widely accepted that the detonation properties predicted by C-J detonation relations are fairly accurate in comparison to experimental values. The post-detonation flow properties can also be expressed as a function of wave speed or Mach number. Therefore, the PDE control system can use C-J relations to predict the post-detonation flow properties based on measured initial conditions and compare the values with those obtained from using the wave speed. The controller can then vary the initial conditions within the combustor for the subsequent cycle, by modulating the frequency and duty cycle of the valves, to obtain optimum air and fuel flow rates, as well as modulate the energy and timing of the ignition to achieve the required detonation properties. Five different PDE ground demonstrators were designed, built and tested to study a number of the required sub-systems. This work presents a review of all the systems that were tested, along with suggestions for their improvement. The PDE setups, ranged from a compact PDE with a 19 mm (3/4 in.) i.d., to two 25 mm (1 in.) i.d. setups, to a 101 mm (4 in.) i.d. dual-stage PDE setup with a pre-detonator. Propane-oxygen mixtures were used in the smaller PDEs. In the dual-stage PDE, propane-oxygen was used in the pre-detonator, while propane-air mixtures were used in the main combustor. Both rotary valves and solenoid valve injectors were studied. The rotary valves setups were tested at 10 Hz, while the solenoid valves were tested at up to 30 Hz on a 25 mm i.d. PDE. The dual-stage PDE was run at both 1 Hz and 10 Hz using solenoid valves. The two types of valves have their drawbacks and advantages which are discussed, along with ways to enhance their functionality. Rotary valves with stepper motor drives are recommended to be used for air flow control, while an array of solenoid injectors may be used for liquid or gaseous fuel injection. Various DDT enhancing devices were tested, including Shchelkin spirals (with varying thicknesses, lengths and pitches), grooved sleeves and converging-diverging nozzles. The Shchelkin spirals are found to be the most effective of all, at blockage ratios in the region of 50 to 55 %. To improve the durability of Shchelkin spirals, it is recommended that they be grooved into the inside of tubes or inserted as replaceable sleeves. Orifice plates with high blockage ratios, in the region of 50 to 80 %, are also recommended due to their simple and rugged design. All these devices along with the PDE combustor will require a strong cooling system to prevent damage from the extreme detonation temperatures. High energy (HE) and low energy (LE) ignition systems were tested and compared along with various designs of igniters and automotive spark plugs. It is concluded that while HE ignition may help unsensitized fuel-air mixtures to achieve detonations faster than LE systems, the former have severe drawbacks. The HE igniters get damaged quickly, and require large and heavy power supplies. While the HE ignition is able to reduce ignition delay in a propane-oxygen pre-detonator, it did not show a significant improvement in bringing about DDT in the main combustor using propane-air mixtures. The compact pre-detonator design with a gradual area change transitioning to a larger combustor is found to be effective for detonation initiation, but the pre-detonator concept is recommended for high-speed applications only, since higher speeds requires more sensitive, easily detonable fuels that have short ignition delays and DDT run-up distances. Dynamic pressure transducers, ion detectors and photo-detectors were compared for the diagnostics of the detonation wave. The ion detector is found to be a safe, cheap and effective choice for obtaining detonation or flame velocities, and better than the optical detector, which is not practical for long-duration PDE operations. The piezoelectric dynamic pressure transducer has problems with heating and requires an effective cooling system to enable it to function in a PDE. Other diagnostics studied include thrust measurement and mass flow rate measurement techniques. Additionally, fuel sensitizing techniques, such as hydrogen blending, along with the DDT devices can ensure that detonations are produced successfully.


Aerospace Engineering | Engineering | Mechanical Engineering


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington