This paper introduces a novel approach to monitor pressure dynamics in turbomachinery. This innovation is motivated by the need expressed by machine OEMs and end-users to detect and avoid combustion instabilities, as well as lean-blowout (LBO), in low emission combustion systems. Such situations are often characterised by a marked increase of pressure signals in low frequency range. The piezoelectric technology, conventionally used for pressure measurements, presents sensitivity and stability issues at high temperatures and low frequencies. Here a new paradigm for pressure sensing, based on optical interferometry, is characterised and validated.

The interferometric sensing system is designed to provide a larger range of measurement frequencies with better performance, in the low frequency range (< 50Hz), while exposed to high temperatures. This unique feature allows the real-time observation of events, such as the specific behaviour of a low frequency flame dynamic, which is characteristic of an imminent LBO. This improved monitoring system will support an optimisation of the machine performance, leading to a safer, cleaner, more flexible and more cost-efficient operation for the end-user.

The novel measurement system has been characterised under non-reactive and reactive conditions within the frame of a joint study between Meggitt SA, Combustion Bay One e.U. and FH Joanneum GmbH. The technology is first described, including the relevant hardware and software components of the measurement chain. The different experimental set-ups and conditions are also illustrated. The results of the test campaign and their subsequent analysis are then presented, supporting the expected advantages over piezoelectric technology. In conclusion, a possible strategy for the detection of LBO precursors based on low frequency data is proposed.

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