A gas turbine model combustor for swirling CH4/air diffusion flames at atmospheric pressure with good optical access for detailed laser measurements is discussed. Three flames with thermal powers between 7.6 and 34.9 kW and overall equivalence ratios between 0.55 and 0.75 were investigated. These behave differently with respect to combustion instabilities: Flame A burned stably, flame B exhibited pronounced thermoacoustic oscillations, and flame C, operated near the lean extinction limit, was subject to sudden liftoff with partial extinction and reanchoring. One aim of the studies was a detailed experimental characterization of flame behavior to better understand the underlying physical and chemical processes leading to instabilities. The second goal of the work was the establishment of a comprehensive database that can be used for validation and improvement of numerical combustion models. The flow field was measured by laser Doppler velocimetry, the flame structures were visualized by planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) of OH and CH radicals, and the major species concentrations, temperature, and mixture fraction were determined by laser Raman scattering. The flow fields of the three flames were quite similar, with high velocities in the region of the injected gases, a pronounced inner recirculation zone, and an outer recirculation zone with low velocities. The flames were not attached to the fuel nozzle and thus were partially premixed before ignition. The near field of the flames was characterized by fast mixing and considerable finite-rate chemistry effects. CH PLIF images revealed that the reaction zones were thin (≤0.5 mm) and strongly corrugated and that the flame zones were short (h≤50 mm). Despite the similar flow fields of the three flames, the oscillating flame B was flatter and opened more widely than the others. In the current article, the flow field, structures, and mean and rms values of the temperature, mixture fraction, and species concentrations are discussed. Turbulence intensities, mixing, heat release, and reaction progress are addressed. In a second article, the turbulence-chemistry interactions in the three flames are treated. © 2005 The Combustion Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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