‘Making plasma-assisted combustion efficient’ project granted by NWO

The ‘Making plasma-assisted combustion efficient’ project of Sander Nijdam (Elementary Processes in Gas discharges group) has been granted within the Open Technology program by NWO.

About the project

Research Summary
Plasma assisted combustion promises to use the unique properties of cold plasma to make combustion leaner and cleaner. Many groups have shown that plasmas can improve ignition and lean burning of flames, but poor understanding of the underlying principles up to now has prevented the development of realistic burner configurations. Within the present project, we will investigate a new plasma assisted burner geometry, that is promising for applications, and that allows thorough experimental and theoretical investigations of the basic mechanisms. The fundamental challenge lies in the complex physics and chemistry of plasmas and flames and in the many scales in space and time.

We will combine state-of-the-art plasma and flame diagnostics with advanced plasma and flame modelling to understand how plasma interacts with a flame, and how to make this interaction the most efficient. The participating groups from complementary disciplines have already joint forces to develop an innovative laboratory burner geometry. It allows us to create a quasi-one-dimensional plasma-assisted flame system that can be studied conveniently with advanced diagnostics and state-of-the-art numerical simulations. The investigations will teach us which plasma-created species actually do help the ignition and burning of a lean flame and how the plasma-flame interaction can be optimized. Based on that, we will propose designs for cheap and practical plasma-assisted burner geometries.

Utilisation Summary
The burning of fossil fuels dominates global energy consumption but is also the dominant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, any small improvement in combustion processes can have major implications on climate change and air pollution. One important way to make combustion processes more efficient and environmentally friendly is to burn leaner (lower fuel-to-air ratio) and to add low-carbon and/or renewably produced fuels like hydrogen. In this project we will investigate methods to enable these two improvements by applying plasma-assisted combustion, a promising but badly understood method to improve combustion processes. We will fill the lack of knowledge on the interaction of plasmas with lean premixed flames. This will then be applied to optimize the effects of plasma on combustion behavior, and we will come up with design rules for the application of affordable plasma-assisted combustion in realistic combustion configurations. Combined with a cost-effective high-voltage power source that will also be developed in the project, this can lead to an economically feasible implementation of this technique, eventually resulting in large scale adoption of plasma-assisted combustion in the over 10 billion US$ domestic boiler market. The active contributions and involvement of industrial partners in this project will enable us to easily transfer the developed understanding and knowledge to leading market parties.

Summary NWO domain TTW’s website and online in ISAAC
For obvious reasons, there is a continuous strive to improve the efficiency and to limit the emissions of combustion processes. One very promising way to achieve this is by plasma-assisted combustion. A plasma can produce active species which enable leaner burning of flames (lower fuel-to-air ratios) or use low-carbon fuels like hydrogen or renewably produced methane. However, up till now plasma-assisted combustion is quite poorly understood and therefore not applied in realistic boiler configurations. In this project we want to combine the strengths of four complementing groups to fill this large gap in our knowledge and thereby apply plasma assisted combustion to realistic applications. We will use advanced plasma diagnostics and numerical models to unravel all details of this process. Most research will be based on a novel in-house-developed plasma-assisted burner geometry which is ideal for research purposes, but we will also develop configurations suitable for real-life applications.

The project will start from September 1st 2018. See the NWO website for more information: https://www.nwo.nl/onderzoek-en-resultaten/programmas/open+technologieprogramma/projecten/2018/2018-16480