Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Andrew Nix

Committee Co-Chair

Donald Ferguson

Committee Member

Donald Ferguson

Committee Member

Patrick Browning


Pressure gain combustion (PGC) technologies, specifically rotating detonation engines (RDEs), are poised to provide the next big leap in gas turbine engine advancement, significantly increasing the thermal. RDEs make use of thermodynamic advantages of isochoric as opposed to isobaric combustion. Theorized to increase thermal efficiency by up to 7% [1], the RDE would have significant impact on reducing anthropogenic carbon emissions. In addition to efficiency gains, the RDE also provides mechanical simplicity and reduced size advantages compared to it’s traditional counterparts and PGC competition.

The United States (U.S.) Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) maintains and operates two rotating detonation combustor (RDC) facilities. Firstly, a 6 inch diameter lab scale RDE (LSRDE) is utilized to better understand the operational regime. Secondly, the bench scale RDE (BSRDE) enables optical access within the plenums to investigate the dynamic interactions at the injection inlet.

This work begins to investigate the relationships between the NETL facilities. By performing a dimensional analysis on the RDC system and creating a data reduction routine to more similarly compare data from the two facilities, it was found that there is little connection between the two experimental rigs. It is believed that the primary cause of this disconnection is the significant difference in physical mechanisms driving the shock and detonation waves in each respective facility. However, the methodology presented in this work does begin to reveal the interaction of system parameters and could prove to be useful as RDE operation becomes better understood.