Dr. Jacqueline O’Connor, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Center for Combustion, Power and Propulsion explains how combustor design has changed drastically in 50 years
Wednesday, September 9, 2015

- September 18, 2015

“The role of gas power in power generation is changing,” Jacqueline O’Connor exclaimed at Wednesday’s Energy Exchange seminar. O’Connor presented an overview of the current state of combustion engine power generation, described the current dilemmas facing the industry and, via her research, prescribed potential solutions to these problems. O’Connor kicked off her presentation, “Gas Turbine Operability: A Hot-Section Perspective,” by presenting the importance of the hot sector in power generation and, also, the incredible prevalence of combustion engines in the aircraft, marine and industrial industries, as well. She continued on to discuss the challenges that researchers and businesses are facing with their combustion engines and prescribed the future development of engines laid in the problem of engine efficiency. Combustion engines, which O’Connor said could produce hundreds of megawatts of power, face efficiency challenges in three specific areas: flame stability, combustion instability and flame interaction with the turbine. Each of these can be boiled down to O’Connor’s fundamental question “is the flame where we think it is?” Through her research, O’Connor has found various methods to increase efficiency in each of these areas. For instance, one of her suggestions included improving recirculation methods and technology to better recirculate and, therefore, better stabilize the flame inside the engine. O’Connor also cautioned of the repercussions for not properly identifying how the flame is interacting in the engine, warning that blow-offs and flashbacks are common mishaps. Jacqueline O’Connor, Ph. D, is an assistant professor and researcher within the department of mechanical and nuclear engineering at Penn State.