Characterization of Ignition and Combustion of Nitromethane and Isopropyl Nitrate Monopropellant Droplets
Conventional rocket propellants such as monomethyl hydrazine (MMH) and hydrazine have been used for decades due to their high specific impulse and performance. However, interest in greener alternatives, including HAN or HAN-based propellants, has grown due to high levels of toxicity and difficulties in the handling and storage of conventional fuels. Included among potential propellants are monopropellants nitromethane (NM) and isopropyl nitrate (IPN) and their blends. Though large-scale investigations on the ignition and combustion of these fuels have been done, the ignition and combustion processes of these monopropellant fuels are still not well understood. Droplet studies have been traditionally and extensively employed to decipher the influence of ambient conditions and fuel properties on ignition and combustion of different fuels. These fundamental studies allow for the isolation of different factors such as ambient temperature and initial droplet size among others, to provide a deeper understanding of their effects in overall spray combustion.
The research described here seeks to add to the knowledge on the ignition and combustion processes of NM and IPN through single droplet ignition and combustion studies. To this end, the first effort has been to establish a suitable method of studying the ignition and combustion of droplets in conditions similar to those in practical systems. Droplet ignition delay measurements for NM and IPN droplets have also been conducted, and the influence of ambient temperature and droplet size has been studied. The double flame structures of NM and IPN, representative of hybrid combustion, have also been observed. In addition, the applicability of the hybrid combustion model, developed to predict mass burning rates for hypergolic fuels exhibiting hybrid burning including MMH, UDMH and hydrazine, has been assessed. Lastly, the ability of the quasi-steady droplet ignition model to predict ignition delays of IPN and NM monopropellant droplets is also discussed.