Experiments are performed on a turbulent swirling flame placed inside a vertical tube whose fundamental acoustic mode becomes unstable at higher powers and equivalence ratios. The power, equivalence ratio, fuel composition and boundary condition of this tube are varied and, at each operating point, the combustion noise is recorded. In addition, short acoustic pulses at the fundamental frequency are supplied to the tube with a loudspeaker and the decay rates of subsequent acoustic oscillations are measured. This quantifies the linear stability of the system at every operating point. Using this data for training, we show that it is possible for a Bayesian ensemble of neural networks to predict the decay rate from a 300 millisecond sample of the (un-pulsed) combustion noise and therefore forecast impending thermoacoustic instabilities. We also show that it is possible to recover the equivalence ratio and power of the flame from these noise snippets, confirming our hypothesis that combustion noise indeed provides a fingerprint of the combustor’s internal state. Furthermore, the Bayesian nature of our algorithm enables principled estimates of uncertainty in our predictions, a reassuring feature that prevents it from making overconfident extrapolations. We use the techniques of permutation importance and integrated gradients to understand which features in the combustion noise spectra are crucial for accurate predictions and how they might influence the prediction. This study serves as a first step towards establishing interpretable and Bayesian machine learning techniques as tools to discover informative relationships in combustor data and thereby build trustworthy, robust and reliable combustion diagnostics.

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