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Cheap Energy -- A Revolutionary New Way

November 12, 1999
CSIRO Australia
Australian scientists have perfected a new combustion technology, which is poised to clean up greenhouse gas emissions, slash energy costs and significantly boost productivity.

Australian scientists have perfected a new-age combustion technology, which is poised to clean up greenhouse gas emissions, slash energy costs and significantly boost productivity.

“We have produced a new generation pulse combustion technology which until now has defied the best efforts in the world to turn it into a practical option for everyday use,” says CSIRO Building Construction & Engineering Chief, Mr Larry Little.

“CSIRO’s new generation combustion technology with its high temperatures and low fuel consumption is so efficient it can halve energy consumption, offering the potential to revolutionise manufacturing and energy use throughout Australia and the world,” he says.

On the home-front, pulse combustion promises cheaper water heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration.

There is also major and immediate potential in the following areas:- in the steel and smelting industry to drive foundries;- in domestic and commercial refrigerators for cooling;- for downstream ore processing in the mining industry;- in the food industry where spray drying is used for making skim milk products; - and for boilers in hospitals and other buildings.

Dr David Proctor of CSIRO Thermal & Fluids Engineering is the scientist behind CSIRO’s New Generation Pulse Combustion (NGPC).

“Pulse combustion produces much hotter and cleaner flames by a ‘natural’ recirculation of unburnt exhaust gases created by its pulsing effect. Produced by sound waves, the pulsing effect also reduces noxious emissions to levels far below the strictest environmental standards,” he says.

“Pulse combustion is the consequence of a combustion instability that is driven into resonance by the geometry of the burner”.

“This resonant driving locks the combustion instability into a very stable repetitive pattern where the burner becomes self-aspirating and there is no need for a fan to continuously supply the combustion air.

“The flame is not continuous but is a series of discrete flamelets, that are ignited on the hot remnant gases of prior flamelets, like passing on the baton in a relay race.

“The result is significantly greater heat production than in conventional systems and exhaust gas emissions become amongst the cleanest in the world. Zero levels of total hydrocarbon (THC) and carbon monoxide (CO) are attainable.

“In the best of conventional combustion systems there are usually small quantities of unburnt hydrocarbons and CO present in the exhaust gases.”

Dr Proctor says that equipment also tends to be self-cleaning throughout the life of the plant as a result of the micro-vibrations that are generated, and by operating each pulse combustor out of phase with its partner, sound levels are much lower than for many industrial burners currently in use.

The obstacle to commercially viable pulse combustion worldwide has been that, until now, no-one could find a way to keep a pulsing flame burning at low levels where pulse combustion offers both great heat output and reduced energy consumption.

“CSIRO’s NGPC overcomes the major problem of turning down the burning rate without shutting down the flame - a difficulty known as ‘turning down’,” says Dr Proctor

Past attempts have only managed to turn the burning rate down 10%. CSIRO’s NGPC achieved rates of 60% - an amount that makes pulse combustion become an extremely attractive proposition for industry.

One secret behind a practical pulse combustor is its specially designed heating chamber, but this still comes up short without another major technological breakthrough.

CSIRO is the first to have found a way to scale up the laboratory pulse combustor into commercial sized processing facilities. Two prototypes have been built and are undergoing testing.

These are subject to confidentiality agreements with the two companies involved.

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CSIRO Australia. "Cheap Energy -- A Revolutionary New Way." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 November 1999. <>.
CSIRO Australia. (1999, November 12). Cheap Energy -- A Revolutionary New Way. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 29, 2017 from
CSIRO Australia. "Cheap Energy -- A Revolutionary New Way." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 29, 2017).