A Study of Fluid Flow Phenomena around Parallel-Plate Stacks in a Standing Wave Thermoacoustic Device

  • Xiaoan Mao

Student thesis: Phd


Thermoacoustic devices are a group of systems that make use of the thermoacoustic effect to achieve an energy conversion between thermal and acoustic energy. The thermoacoustic effect occurs when a solid boundary is introduced into an acoustic field, and a non-zero net heat transportation takes place while the net mass transfer remains null. Thermoacoustic technologies are gaining an increasing research interest because of their potential applications for building alternative prime movers or heat pumps which do not use working fluids causing environmental damage and require very little maintenance due to their lack of moving part.However, the operation of this type of system is yet to be fully understood: fluid flow and heat transfer processes within the system components such as thermoacoustic stacks and heat exchangers still require a lot of attention. The performance of the system working with relatively low amplitude acoustic wave can be predicted by the linear thermoacoustic theory, which is already well developed. However, a high amplitude acoustic wave is usually required in order to achieve high power density or high power output. Unfortunately, the performance of such systems can be seriously degraded due to nonlinear effects, such as turbulence, minor loss or high proportion of harmonics. The lack of understanding of these effects impedes the design and construction of high efficiency systems.The work described in this thesis is focused on the study of flow phenomena taking place around parallel plate stack placed in a standing wave thermoacoustic resonator, by using advanced flow diagnostics techniques such as particle image velocimetry (PIV) and hot wire anemometry (HWA). In order to carry out the experimental study, a standing wave thermoacoustic device working at relatively low frequency of 13.1Hz was designed, commissioned and tested. The frequency response of this device was carefully investigated and compared with the analytical results using linear acoustic equations and a linear model of the loudspeaker. A further comparison with the analytical results obtained with the modelling tool DeltaEC (Design Environment for Low-amplitude Thermoacoustic Energy Conversion) was also presented. The resonator was driven from low to large pressure amplitudes with drive ratios up to 10%. A good agreement is obtained for small amplitudes, but the discrepancies become larger when the driving amplitude is increased. The analysis reveals that the large discrepancy at high amplitude can be attributed to minor losses.Following the above preliminary work, a more comprehensive study of the flow field around parallel-plate stacks was conducted by means of PIV and HWA. It was shown that the flow around the two studied parallel-plate stacks exhibits rather complicated flow features when the amplitude of the acoustic oscillation varies. Symmetrical and asymmetrical vortex shedding phenomena are observed and two distinct modes of generating ''vortex streets'' are identified. It shown that a velocity related parameter such as the Reynolds number, defined on the plate thickness and the velocity amplitude at the entrance to the stack, and a geometrical parameter are not sufficient to define the flow characteristics in this type of flow problem. It is also proposed to introduce an extra frequency related parameter such as the Keulegan-Carpenter number (KC) and to carry out a similarity analysis in order to understand better the physics behind the flow phenomena and their controlling parameters.Typical ensemble-averaged velocity fields are used in the analysis above. However, the detailed flow features obtained from the ensemble averaged flow fields and the instantaneous flow fields could be different in a substantial way. The flow behaviour, its kinematics, dynamics and scales of turbulence, therefore are further investigated by using the classical Reynolds decomposition to separate the instantaneous velocity fields into ensemble-averaged
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorArtur Jaworski (Supervisor)


  • thermoacoustic stack
  • parallel plate stack
  • oscillatory flow
  • particle image velocimetry
  • turbulence

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