Two-phase flow in open-cell metal foams with application to aero-engine separators

Piazera de Carvalho, Thiago (2016) Two-phase flow in open-cell metal foams with application to aero-engine separators. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Oil-air separation is a key function in aero engines with closed-loop oil systems. Aero-engine separators are employed to separate oil from air before being released overboard. Typically, these devices make use of a porous medium such as an open-cell metal foam, in order to enhance oil separation. Although quite scarce, there has been some research aimed at developing a suitable modelling framework for aero-engine separators. However, numerical modelling of the air/oil flow through the open-cell metal foams employed in aero-engine separators has never been properly addressed.

This thesis presents the development of a pore-scale numerical modelling approach to determine the transport properties of fluid flow through open-cell metal foams. Micro-computer tomography scans were used to generate 3D digital representations of several commercial open-cell metal foams. A code was developed in Matlab to render the CT images into 3D volumes and perform morphological measurements on the samples. Subsequently, conventional finite volume simulations are carried out in order to obtain the airflow and compute the pressure gradient across the investigated samples. Simulations were performed for a wide range of Reynolds numbers and the feasibility of using Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) turbulence models is investigated. Validation was done by comparing the pore-scale pressure gradient results against experimental measurements. Further simulations were carried out to isolate and analyse particular effects in more detail, such as wall and entrance effects, fluid compressibility, time-dependent flow features, anisotropy of the foam structure and the impact of porosity and surface area on the pressure gradient.

The oil phase within aero-engine separators has the form of disperse droplets. Thus, the oil phase in the pore-scale simulations was modelled using a Lagrangian particle tracking approach. Lagrangian simulations were run in steady state and one-way coupled, due to the low mass fraction of oil normally present within aero-engine separators Converged airflow pore-scale solutions were employed as the base flow for the Lagrangian tracking approach. A simplified oil capture criterion assumed the droplet trajectory to be terminated upon collision against the foam solid ligaments. The focus of the present work was on separation of small droplets with a diameter smaller than 10 microns. Hence, a series of calculations were performed using a representative droplet diameter range, and multiple flow velocities. The outcome of such approach was a qualitative evaluation of the oil separation effectiveness for several commercial open-cell metal foams under a representative range of flow regimes. Furthermore, rotational effects which are experienced by the metal foams within aero-engine separators were modelled using a moving frame of reference (MRF) approach. Finally, a methodology for upscaling the results obtained by the detailed pore-scale simulations into a simple macroscopic porous medium model is described, showing promising results.

One of the aims of this work was to develop a numerical modelling framework able to provide an accurate representation of the airflow and a qualitative assessment of the oil capture within aero-engine separators. The feasibility of using the current state-of-the-art modelling framework is assessed. The separator design and geometry are based on the oil separation test rig located at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Experimental measurements of the overall pressure drop and oil capture performed at KIT are used to validate the simulations. The methodology presented here overcomes some limitations and simplifications present in previous similar studies. The upscaled macroscopic porous medium model was applied to full aero-engine separator CFD simulations. Experiments and simulations were conducted for three different separator configurations, one without a metal foam, and two with metal foams of different pore sizes. For each configuration, a variation of air flow, shaft rotational speed and droplet size was conducted. The focus was on the separation of droplets with a diameter smaller than 10 \textmu m. Single-phase air flow simulation results showed that overall pressure drop increases with both increased shaft speed and air flow, largely in agreement with the experiments. Oil capture results proved to be more difficult to be captured by the numerical model and indicate that droplet re-atomization might play a significant role in the oil separation phenomena. Re-atomization, droplet-droplet collisions and droplet breakup were not considered at the present stage, but could be subject of future work. The modelling framework described here should not be seen as a definite answer but as an improvement upon the current state-of-the-art methodology, providing important lessons and recommendations for future work on aero-engine separators.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Morvan, Herve P.
Hargreaves, David
Keywords: Two-phase flow, porous media, tomography, metal foams, aero-engine separators
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General) > TA 357 Fluid mechanics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering
Item ID: 37062
Depositing User: De Carvalho, Thiago
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2017 20:19

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