This experimental study elucidates the unsteady dynamics of flame-flow interactions during unique thermoacoustic instability (TI) and the transition mechanism from stable combustion to TI for lean-premixed hydrogen turbulent jet flames in a low-swirl combustor (LSC), where a swirler assembly consists of an unswirled central region (CR) and an annular swirler region (SR). Simultaneous 200-kHz pressure fluctuation p’ measurements and 10-kHz OH* chemiluminescence imaging, as well as 40-kHz stereoscopic particle image velocimetry (SPIV) and two-dimensional PIV measurements for steady-state and transient data acquisitions, respectively, were conducted. The SPIV was performed in multiple planes to explore three-dimensional velocity fields. During TI, periodic flashback was possibly caused by significant axial velocity oscillations, resulting in the local mixture velocity falling below the turbulent flame speed. The large-scale vortex ring generated by the velocity oscillations caused axisymmetric radial velocity Vr oscillations with switching signs during the TI period. Similar to a typical low-swirl flow, the positive Vr away from the combustor axis created diverging flow, whereas unlike the typical flowfield, the negative Vr toward the combustor axis generated converging flow while flattening the axial velocity distributions, which was the signature phenomenon for this TI. Using the transient data and dynamic mode decomposition, variations in delay times between the mixture injection and its convection to a region with positive local Rayleigh indices were investigated. During stable combustion, the mixture jet from the SR predominantly induced thermoacoustic coupling (TC). As the combustion transitioned into the TI, the mixture jet from the CR began to induce TC and, eventually, achieved predominance in inducing TC during fully evolved TI. The transition from the SR jet- into CR jet-dominant TI arising from the dynamic flame-flow interactions resulted from the inherent physical characteristics of hydrogen flames, thereby yielding the larger p’ amplitude compared to typical TIs.
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