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Unsteady Ejector and
Pressure-Gain Combustion Rig

A laboratory scale rig has been established for the investigation of fundamentally unsteady, air-breathing propulsion systems and sub-systems. It is located in the Research Combustion Laboratory (RCL) area. This was formerly known, and is still often referred to, as the Rocket Lab. Test Cell 14 is a small-scale, gasoline or methanol fueled pulsejet engine. The engine was fabricated at GRC, but is an exact copy of a commercially available unit which is used to power hobby-scale model aircraft. While not practical as a stand-alone propulsion system, it is reliable, self-aspirating, versatile, and inexpensive to manufacture and operate, making it ideal for fundamental investigations related to unsteady, impulsive propulsion. The test cell which houses the pulsejet can be configured in several ways, depending on the phenomenon of interest. A suite of instruments is available to measure standard engine operational parameters such as mass flow rate, pressure (dynamic, and mean), temperature, and thrust.

The rig has been used extensively to investigate unsteady ejector systems, plume dynamics of impulsive propulsion systems, pressure-gain combustion systems, and the fluid dynamics associated with deflagrative, confined-volume combustion. Most recently, the pressure-gain combustion configuration was coupled to an automobile turbocharger and successfully demonstrated the self-aspirated, thrust-producing operation of a liquid fueled pressure-gain gas turbine.


Cell 14 PDE

Cell 14 PDE

Cell 14 PDE

Cell 14 PDE


Paxson, D. E., Dougherty, K.,"Operability of an Ejector Enhanced Pulse Combustor in a Gas Turbine Environment," AIAA paper 2008-0119, January, 2008.

John, Wentworth T., Paxson, D. E., and Wernet, Mark P., "Conditionally Sampled Pulsejet Driven Ejector Flow Field Using DPIV," AIAA paper 2002-3231, June, 2002.

Opalski, A. B., Paxson, D. E., and Wernet, M. P., " Detonation Driven Ejector Exhaust Flow Characterization Using Planar DPIV," AIAA paper 2005-4379, July, 2005.

Paxson, D. E., Dougherty, K.,"Ejector Enhanced Pulsejet Based Pressure Gain Combustors: An Old Idea With A New Twist, " AIAA paper 2005-4216, July, 2005.

Paxson, D. E., Wilson, J., and Dougherty, K.," Unsteady Ejector Performance: An Experimental Investigation Using a Pulsejet Driver, " AIAA paper 2002-3915, July, 2002.

Wilson, J. and Paxson, D. E., " Unsteady Ejector Performance: An Experimental Investigation Using A Resonance Tube Driver, " AIAA paper 2002-3632, July, 2002.

Wilson, J., Sgondea, A., Paxson, D. E., Rosenthal, B. N. " Parametric Investigation of Thrust Augmentation by Ejectors on a Pulsed Detonation Tube, " AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power, Vol. 23, No. 1, Jan.-Feb. 2007, pp. 108-115, also AIAA paper 2005-4208, July, 2005.

Paxson, D. E., Wernet, M. P. John, W. T., "An Experimental Investigation of Unsteady Thrust Augmentation Using a Speaker-Driven Jet," AIAA Journal, Vol. 45, No. 3, March, 2007, pp. 607-615, also AIAA paper 20040092, January, 2004.

Wilson, J., Wernet, M. P., Paxson, D. E., "Vortex rings in a Shrouded Hartmann-Sprenger Tube, " AIAA Journal, Vol. 44, No. 11, Nov. 2006, pp. 2706-2719.


Dan Paxson
Phone: (216) 433-8334

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last updated: 9.24.09