Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Dr. Magdy Attia

First Committee Member

Dr. Eric Perrell

Second Committee Member

Dr. William Engblom


Throughout the previous century, hydrocarbon-fueled engines have used and optimized the `traditional' combustion process called deflagration (subsonic combustion). An alternative form of combustion, detonation (supersonic combustion), can increase the thermal efficiency of the process by anywhere from 20 - 50%. Even though several authors have studied detonation waves since the 1890's and a plethora of papers and books have been published, it was not until 2008 that the first detonation-powered flight took place. It lasted for 10 seconds at 100 ft. altitude. Achieving detonation presents its own challenges: some fuels are not prone to detonate, severe vibrations caused by the cyclic nature of the engine and its intense noise are some of the key areas that need further research. Also, to directly achieve detonation either a high-energy, bulky, ignition system is required, or the combustion chamber must be fairly long (5 ft. or more in some cases). In the latter method, a subsonic flame front accelerates within the combustion chamber until it reaches supersonic speeds, thus detonation is attained. This is called deflagration-todetonation transition (DDT). Previous papers and experiments have shown that obstacles, such as discs with an orifice, located inside the combustion chamber can shorten the distance required to achieve detonation. This paper describes a hands-on implementation of a DDT device. Different disc geometries inside the chamber alter the wave characteristics at the exit of the tube. Although detonation was reached only when using pure oxygen, testing identified an obstacle configuration for LPG and air mixtures that increased pressure and wave speed significantly when compared to baseline or other obstacle configurations. Mixtures of LPG and air were accelerated to Mach 0.96 in the downstream frame of reference, which would indicate a transition to detonation was close. Reasons for not achieving detonation may include poor fuel and oxidizer mixing, and/or the need for a longer DDT section.