Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Engineering

First Advisor

Dr Yasir Al-Abdeli

Second Advisor

Professor Guan Heng Yeoh

Third Advisor

Dr Ferdinando Guzzomi


Combustion can be used to thermally process biomass fuels and yield both heat and power in a sustainable manner. At present, direct combustion of solid biomass is the primary approach for generating electricity and heat when these fuels are used at a commercial scale.

Deflectors have been used in the freeboard section of industrial combustors to reduce radiant heat loss through flue gases and for particle emissions abatement. Freeboard deflectors can also influence emissions and freeboard temperature distributions by changing the flow dynamics. Despite much research into laboratory scale biomass combustion and packed beds, there have been no systematic studies into the impact of deflectors (heat shields) on the axial and radial temperature profiles, test methodologies used or the emissions in laboratory scale fixed bed biomass combustors operated on pelletised fuels.

Through a combination of experiments and numerical simulations, this research has investigated such issues in both high temperature fixed bed biomass combustors as well as relatively lower temperature (non-combusting) packed beds subject to different heating modes.

Experiments have been carried out on a laboratory scale (continuous feed) fixed bed combustor featuring both primary air (supplied through the fuel bed) as well as secondary air (in the freeboard). A freeboard deflector was located at different axial locations during this testing. The aim was to characterize deflector effects on burning rate, temperature distribution (near-wall and near-centreline) and gaseous emissions (NO, CO, CO2) over a range of primary and secondary air flow rates. A systematic method has been developed to establish the steady state time period during the combustion process. In this regard, detailed analyses on the time series of thermocouples, emissions and fuel mass conversion data have been performed. The proposed method is based on calculating the percentile mean deviation of temperature and NO/CO emissions data which can provide a more effective means of resolving the stand of the steady state operating, compared to only using the time evolution of these variables. In addition, the significance of the thermocouple radiative corrections (losses) and its effect on the accuracy of measured temperatures has been investigated. The results concluded that NO, CO and CO2 emissions are affected by the presence of a deflector in the mid-range of combustion stoichiometry (λ=0.439-0.509). However, deflector effects were found to be most prominent for NO and CO emissions by reducing and rising their levels, respectively. Deflectors affect upstream near-wall temperatures, but their impact depends on relative (axial) position (H). Furthermore, results reveal that deflectors do not have significant effects on the burning rate and flow availability of the exhaust gases.

A CFD model of a porous media has been implanted to study the effects of freeboard deflectors on the heat transfer inside packed bed columns for the temperature range of 100°C to 400°C (which is typical for drying and volatile release in biomass combustion). Results show that the deflector do affect temperature profiles along the freeboard as well as wall temperatures but this is dependent on the mode of heating and emissivity of the deflector.

Access Note

Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 are not available by author's request.