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Paxson, Daniel E. Controls and Dynamics Branch, Glenn Research Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Cleveland, Ohio.
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Pressure-gain combustion (PGC) represents a novel approach for significantly increasing the efficiency of aerospace propulsion systems and ground-based power systems. PGC is defined as a combustion process whereby there is a rise (gain) in the averaged total pressure across the device in which the combustion is taking place. This pressure rise is in contrast to the more typical 4–8% total pressure drop associated with the combustion processes that are currently utilized in aircraft propulsion and electric power generation systems. The pressure rise can be used to produce increased thrust in a ram propulsion application, where the combustor is followed by a nozzle. Alternatively, it can be used to extract additional shaft work from the downstream turbine in a gas turbine application. The latter application is particularly significant given the ubiquitous use of gas turbines in the United States. In 2011, the operation of these turbines alone was responsible for approximately 13% of fossil fuel consumption. Thus, even small improvements in their efficiency can have a substantial positive impact on energy consumption and the environment. For example, each 1% improvement in the thermal efficiency of the U.S. gas turbine fleet saves as much energy as is produced by 12 average-size wind farms, each consisting of 140 average-size wind turbines operating at full capacity.
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