What is the Use of Turbine Engine Ignition Systems?
Just as you rely your car to start when you are running late to work, a pilot relies on the aircraft start to avoid costly delays. Turbine engine ignition systems live up to their namesake - they are used in the startup cycle to ignite the fuel in the engine of the aircraft. Unlike other ignition systems such as reciprocating engine ignition systems, turbine engine ignition systems are turned off for the remainder of the flight.
To understand how turbine engine ignition system work, we must first know the main components. The three main components are the excitor, ignition lead, and ignitor. To begin, the exciter serves as the power supply for the entire ignition system. The power from the exciter is conducted via the ignition lead, which directly connects to the ignitor which critically ignites the fuel air mixture to trigger combustion.
Turbine ignition systems come in various types depending on the type of aircraft. Continuous ignition systems are lower in voltage and are typically used to reignite fuel in the event of engine flame out. While this gives an added element of safety, the ignition system is not particularly efficient. The more common type of ignition system used in conjunction with turbine engines are capacitor type ignition systems.
To create the necessary power to spark the ignitor plug, the ignition system is made up of an electrical circuit with a series of breaks. When the breaker points open, the electrical current flows into transformers which alter the voltage of the current. As the breaker closes the flow of the current through the transformer establishes a magnetic field. When the breaker opens, the flow of current stops, and the collapse of the field induces a voltage in the secondary of the transformer. This voltage causes a pulse of current to flow into the storage capacitor. The capacitor is a key component of the ignition system. Through repeated pulses from the circuit, the capacitor assumes charge. When the capacitor reaches full charge, it discharges across to the ignitor plug. The power of the ignitor plug is always constant as the charge travels across a vacuum.
Due to the high-energy being released by the capacitor and ignitor, the ignition system must be cooled down. Fan air is channeled around the ignition system to cool down the various components. This type of cooling is typical for continuous ignition system, which are operating for a longer time than a typical ignition system.
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