Thermoacoustic instability can appear in thermal devices when unsteady heat release is coupled with pressure perturbations. This effect results in excitation of eigen acoustic modes of the system. These instabilities are important in various technical applications, for instance, in rocket motors and thermoacoustic engines. A Rijke tube, representing a resonator with a mean flow and a concentrated heat source, is a convenient system for studying the fundamental physics of thermoacoustic instabilities. At certain values of the main system parameters, a loud sound is generated through a process similar to that in real-world devices prone to thermoacoustic instability. Rijke devices have been extensively employed for research purposes. The current work is intended to overcome the serious deficiencies of previous investigations with regard to estimating experimental errors and the influence of parameter variation on the results. Also, part of the objective here is to account for temperature field non-uniformity and to interpret nonlinear phenomena. The major goals of this study are to deliver accurate experimental results for the transition to instability and the scope and nature of the excited regimes, and to develop a theory that explains and predicts the effects observed. An electrically heated, horizontally oriented, Rijke tube is used for the experimental study of transition to instability. The stability boundary is quantified as a function of major system parameters with measured uncertainties for the data collected. Hysteresis in the stability boundary is observed for certain operating regimes of the Rijke tube. An innovative theory is developed for modeling the Rijke oscillations. First, linear theory, incorporating thermal analysis that accurately determines the properties of the modes responsible for the transition to instability, is used to predict the stability boundary. Then, a nonlinear extension of the theory is derived by introducing a hypothesis for a special form of the nonlinear heat transfer function. This nonlinear modeling is shown to predict the hysteresis phenomenon and the limit cycles observed during the tests. A new, reduced-order modeling approach for combustion instabilities in systems with vortex shedding is derived using the developed analytical framework. A hypothesis for the vortex detachment criterion is introduced, and a kicked oscillator model is applied to produce nonlinear results characteristic for unstable combustion systems. The experimental system and the mathematical model, developed in this work for the Rijke tube, are recommended for preliminary design and analysis of real-world thermal devices, where thermoacoustic instability is a concern.
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