Modern gas turbine combustion technologies are driven by stringent regulations on pollutant emissions such as CO and NOx. A combustion system of multiple swirlers coupled with distributed fuel injection was studied as a new concept for reducing NOx emissions by application of Lean Direct Injection (LDI) combustion. The present paper investigates the effects of swirler configurations on the flow structures in isothermal flow and combustion cases using a multiple-swirlers fuel injector at atmospheric conditions. The swirling flow field within the combustor was characterized by a central recirculation zone formed after vortex breakdown. The differences between the tangential and axial velocity profiles, the shape of the recirculation zones and the turbulence intensity distribution for the different fuel injector configurations impacted the flame structure, the temperature distribution and the emission characteristics both for gaseous and liquid fuels. Co-swirling configuration was shown to have the lowest NOx emission level compared with the counter-swirling ones for both types of fuels with lower inlet temperature. In contrast to this, the swirl configuration had less effect on the combustion characteristics in the case of gaseous fuel with high air inlet temperature. The differences in NOx emissions were shown to be closely related to the Damkohler number or the degree to which the flame resembled well-mixed combustion, which is the foundation for LDI combustion.

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