Fluid dynamics of the shock wave reactor
High commercial incentives have driven conventional olefin production technologies to near their material limits, leaving the possibility of further efficiency improvements only in the development of entirely new techniques. One strategy known as the Shock Wave Reactor, which employs gas dynamic processes to circumvent limitations of conventional reactors, has been demonstrated effective at the University of Washington. Preheated hydrocarbon feedstock and a high enthalpy carrier gas (steam) are supersonically mixed at a temperature below that required for thermal cracking. Temperature recovery is then effected via shock recompression to initiate pyrolysis. The evolution to proof-of-concept and analysis of experiments employing ethane and propane feedstocks are presented.The Shock Wave Reactor's high enthalpy steam and ethane flows severely limit diagnostic capability in the proof-of-concept experiment. Thus, a preliminary blow down supersonic air tunnel of similar geometry has been constructed to investigate recompression stability and (especially) rapid supersonic mixing necessary for successful operation of the Shock Wave Reactor. The mixing capabilities of blade nozzle arrays are therefore studied in the air experiment and compared with analytical models. Mixing is visualized through Schlieren imaging and direct photography of condensation in carbon dioxide injection, and interpretation of visual data is supported by pressure measurement and flow sampling. The influence of convective Mach number is addressed. Additionally, thermal behavior of a blade nozzle array is analyzed for comparison to data obtained in the course of succeeding proof-of-concept experiments.Proof-of-concept is naturally succeeded by interest in industrial adaptation of the Shock Wave Reactor, particularly with regard to issues involving the scaling and refinement of the shock recompression. Hence, an additional, variable geometry air tunnel has been constructed to study the parameter dependence of shock recompression in ducts. Distinct variation of the flow Reynolds and Mach numbers and section height allow unique mapping of each of these parameter dependencies. Agreement with a new one-dimensional model is demonstrated, predicting an exponential pressure profile characterized by two key parameters, the maximum pressure recovery and a characteristic length scale. Transition from one to two-dimensional dependence of the length parameter is observed as the duct aspect ratio varies significantly from unity.