To successfully power a turbine engine and produce flight, an aircraft needs a combustion engine to mix air and fuel, as well as ignite it. From their inception, combustion chambers have been an evolving technology. Through the history of aviation, three main types of combustion chambers have been prominently used, including the can, cannular, and annular combustors. In this blog, we will give a short overview of how these combustors work to produce energy for an aircraft.
In simple terms, the combustion chamber works to raise the temperature of air that passes through the engine. Through the mixing and ignition of air and fuel, energy can be created in the form of hot gasses that are harnessed by the turbine section of the aircraft. This fuel and air mixture must also be mixed correctly, burned efficiently, as well as cooled before being brought to the vanes and aircraft turbine blades. The three types of combustion chambers all feature some type of casing, inner liner, fuel injection such as nozzles, method for ignition, and a method of draining the unused fuel.
Can-type combustors are fairly simple and easy to maintain, though are not the most widely used for aircraft such as the other types. Can combustors are comprised of cylindrical chambers that are separate from each other, each having their own casing, spark igniter plugs, and more. The air and fuel is fed to each can, where it is then mixed and ignited for energy. Some older engines have interconnected can combustors in which each can ignites the other until they are all burning.
Cannular combustors are similar to can and annular types as they consist of combustion zones that are connected to each other via a ring casing. Each can does not need to have it’s own spark plug, and ignition and air can be spread to each zone, aiding in a more uniform temperature profile. Cannular combustors are present on various modern turbojets and turbofans.
The last type is the annular combustor that does not feature isolated combustion zones, instead featuring a ring in which there is uniform combustion and temperatures upon exiting. Annular types are much lighter than the other two, and have low pressure drop. Annular type combustion chambers remain the most widely used chamber for aircraft.
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