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Ultraclean Low Swirl Combustion


E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Laboratory UCLSB prototype with 5 cm internal diameter, firing at a rate of 15 kilowatts. This burner is made entirely out of plastic components to showcase its unique lifted flame feature.


ABSTRACT: Burners are used in industry for a wide range of applications including water heaters, power generators, boilers, and HVAC systems. Parallel consumer applications include gas-fired home water heaters, heating systems, and clothes dryers. Natural gas is more efficient and less expensive than electricity and is the current and future fuel of choice. However, conventional gas burners emit oxides of nitrogen (NOx) creating ozone in the lower atmosphere due to incomplete fuel combustion and high temperature operation.

Robert Cheng at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory originally developed a weak swirl burner as a better way to stabilize flame for scientific study. As with many purely scientific investigations, the resulting device is a better performer than those commercially available. The new burner produces almost no NOx, the chemical responsible for ozone in the lower atmosphere. The shape and temperature of the flame are responsible for the improvement, but the actual result will be device dependent. The simplicity of the new design eliminates device scaling and tolerance problems thereby aiding manufacturability. The design could replace most medium and small scale burners with flame temperature requirements below 2,600deg.F.

Market Driver: NOx is responsible for the dirty brown air over most U.S. cities. More than 100 U.S. cities have unsafe ozone levels that exceed federal health standards. Many cities are considering limiting installation of new conventional gas burners. Government energy-saving incentives and pollution control regulations like those for efficient lighting and auto emissions should cause the market to grow at a rapid pace.

STATUS: U.S. Patent #5,735,681 and #5,879,148. Available for licensing.



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Scaling and Development of Low -swirl Burners for Low Emission Furnaces and Boilders, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, Volume 28, 2000/pp. 1305–1313

Laboratory Investigation of an Ultralow NOx Premixed Combustion Concept for Industial Boilders, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, Volume 29, 2002/pp. 1115–1121

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