Date of Award

12-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Dr. John R. Wagner, Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Thomas Salem, Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Todd Schweisinger, Committee Member

Abstract

The demand for clean, sustainable, and cost-effective energy continues to increase due to global population growth and corresponding use of consumer products. Thermoacoustic technology potentially offers a sustainable and reliable solution to help address the continuing demand for electric power. A thermoacoustic device, operating on the principle of standing or traveling acoustic waves, can be designed as a heat pump or a prime mover system. The provision of heat to a thermoacoustic prime mover results in the generation of an acoustic wave that can be converted into electrical power.

Thermoacoustic devices offer highly reliable and transportable power generation with low environmental impact using a variety of fuel sources. Heating and cooling sources are necessary to create the required thermal gradient. This technical strategy is environmentally friendly as it utilizes noble gases, or air, as the working fluid and does not directly produce harmful emissions. Due to the inherent simplicity and limitation of moving components, thermoacoustic devices require little maintenance and have a forecasted long operational lifespan.

This research study will present the design considerations necessary to construct a traveling wave thermoacoustic heat engine. The modeling, analysis, fabrication, and testing with integrated sensors will be discussed to offer insight into the capabilities and subtleties. Performance testing and system analysis have been completed for a variety of heat input profiles. For a 300 W heat source, the thermoacoustic engine generates a 54 Hz acoustic wave with a thermal efficiency of 7.8%. The acoustic power output of the thermoacoustic engine may be increased by 81.5% through improved heat exchanger design. Potential future research efforts to improve system performance are also presented.

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