Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 November 2010
With a sufficiently large impulse, a thermoacoustic system can reach self-sustained oscillations even when it is linearly stable, a process known as triggering. In this paper, a procedure is developed to find the lowest initial energy that can trigger self-sustained oscillations, as well as the corresponding initial state. This is known as the ‘most dangerous’ initial state. The procedure is based on adjoint looping of the nonlinear governing equations, combined with an optimization routine. It is developed for a simple model of a thermoacoustic system, the horizontal Rijke tube, and can be extended to more sophisticated thermoacoustic models. It is observed that the most dangerous initial state grows transiently towards an unstable periodic solution before growing to a stable periodic solution. The initial energy required to trigger these self-sustained oscillations is much lower than the energy of the oscillations themselves and slightly lower than the lowest energy on the unstable periodic solution. It is shown that this transient growth arises due to non-normality of the governing equations. This is analogous to the sequence of events observed in bypass transition to turbulence in fluid mechanical systems and has the same underlying cause. The most dangerous initial state is calculated as a function of the heat-release parameter. It is found that self-sustained oscillations can be reached over approximately half the linearly stable domain. Transient growth in real thermoacoustic systems is 105–106 times greater than that in this simple model. One practical conclusion is that, even in the linearly stable regime, it may take very little initial energy for a real thermoacoustic system to trigger to high-amplitude self-sustained oscillations through the mechanism described in this paper.
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