Design and Testing of a Micro-Scale Wave Rotor System

Kevin P. Lapp

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The drone or micro-air vehicle industry has rapidly expanded in recent years. This thesis focuses on finding an alternative to power a Group 1 UAV with a maximum weight between 0-20 lbs. Nearly all of these vehicles are currently powered using battery operated systems. While electrical power is currently the norm, the Air Force would like to pursue hydrocarbon-fueled aircraft for the higher energy to weight content. Normal internal combustion and turbine turbomachinery performs poorly at low mass flow rates required due to losses from a combination of factors. Wave rotors are being pursued another option for powering these small scale devices. At these small flow rates, wave rotors have been shown to suffer less losses while requiring a less complex geometry. Previous work has examined the performance of a through flow wave rotor producing around 1.8 kW. This effort is investigating a smaller design around 500 W. Currently it utilizes a wave rotor with an external burner to complete a Brayton-like cycle. The previously validated NASA Glenn Research Center quasi-one-dimensional Computational Fluid Dynamics code was used to explore a range of design options for the new 500 Watt wave rotor. Analysis and computer aided design work was completed to ensure rotor operation at the elevated temperatures and high rotational speed. Testing was completed to find overall compressor efficiencies for comparison with typical turbomachinery.