Recent advances in lean premix gas turbine combustion have focused primarily on increasing thermodynamic efficiency, reducing emissions, and minimizing combustion dynamics. The practical limitation on increasing efficiency at lower emissions is the onset of combustion instability, which is known to occur near the lean flammability limit. In a laboratory environment there are many sensors available which provide the combustion engineer with adequate information about flame stability, but those sensors are generally too expensive or unreliable for widespread application in the field. As a consequence, engines must be commissioned in the field with adequate stability margin such that normally expected component wear, fuel quality, and environmental conditions will not cause the turbine to experience unstable combustion. Woodward, in cooperation with NETL, is developing a novel combustion sensor which is integrated into the fuel nozzle such that low cost and long life are achieved. The sensor monitors flame ionization, which is indicative of air-fuel ratio, and most importantly flame stability.

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