Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Paul I. King, PhD.


There has been longstanding government and industry interest in pressure-gain combustion for use in Brayton cycle based engines. Theoretically, pressure-gain combustion allows heat addition with reduced entropy loss. The pulsed detonation combustor (PDC) is a device that can provide such pressure-gain combustion and possibly replace typical steady deflagration combustors. The PDC is inherently unsteady, however, and comparisons with conventional steady deflagration combustors must be based upon time-integrated performance variables. In this study, the radial turbine of a Garrett automotive turbocharger was coupled directly to and driven, full admission, by a PDC in experiments fueled by hydrogen or ethylene. Data included pulsed cycle time histories of turbine inlet and exit temperature, pressure, velocity, mass flow, and enthalpy. The unsteady inlet flowfield showed momentary reverse flow, and thus unsteady accumulation and expulsion of mass and enthalpy within the device. The coupled turbine-driven compressor provided a time-resolved measure of turbine power. Peak power increased with PDC fill fraction, and duty cycle increased with PDC frequency. Cycle-averaged unsteady specific work increased with fueled fraction and frequency. An unsteady turbine efficiency formulation is proposed, including heat transfer effects, extensively weighted total pressure ratio, and ensemble averaging over multiple cycles. Turbine efficiency increased with frequency but was lower than the manufacturer reported conventional steady turbine efficiency.

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