The application of artificial neural networks to combustion and heat exchanger systems

  • Russell Payne

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The operation of large industrial scale combustion systems, such as furnaces and boilers is increasingly dictated by emission legislation and requirements for improved efficiency. However, it can be exceedingly difficult and time consuming to gather the information required to improve original designs. Mathematical modelling techniques have led to the development of sophisticated furnace representations that are capable of representing combustion parameters. Whilst such data is ideal for design purposes, the current power of computing systems tends to generate simulation times that are too great to embed the models into online control strategies.

    The work presented in this thesis offers the possibility of replacing such mathematical models with suitably trained Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) since they can compute the same outputs at a fraction of the model's speed, suggesting they could provide an ideal alternative in online control strategies. Furthermore, artificial neural networks have the ability to approximate and extrapolate making them extremely robust when encountering conditions not met previously.

    In addition to improving operational procedures, another approach to increasing furnace system efficiency is to minimise the waste heat energy produced during the combustion process.

    One very successful method involves the implementation of a heat exchanger system in the exiting gas flue stream, since this is predominantly the main source of heat loss. It can be exceptionally difficult to determine which heat exchanger is best suited for a particular application and it can prove an even more arduous task to control it effectively.

    Furthermore, there are many factors that alter the performance characteristics of a heat exchanger throughout the duration of its operational life, such as fouling or unexpected systematic faults. This thesis investigates the modelling of an experimental heat exchanger system via artificial neural networks with a view to aiding the design and selection process. Moreover, the work presented offers a means to control heat exchangers subject to varying operating conditions more effectively, thus promoting savings in both waste energy and time.

    Date of AwardJan 2005
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJohn Ward (Supervisor) & Steven Wilcox (Supervisor)


    • Artificial Neural Networks
    • ANNs
    • heat exchanger system
    • heat loss

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