Reliable NOx modeling depends on the accurate prediction of both velocity and temperature fields. The velocity and temperature fields of a propane diffusion flame combustor, with interior and exterior conjugate heat transfers, were first numerically studied. The results from three combustion models, together with the re-normalization group (RNG) k-ε turbulence model and the discrete ordinates radiation model are discussed, and compared with comprehensive experimental measurements. The flow patterns and the recirculation zone length in the combustion chamber are excellently predicted, and the mean axial velocities are in fairly good agreement with the experimental data for all three combustion models. The mean temperature profiles are fairly well captured by the probability density function (PDF) and eddy dissipation (EDS) combustion models. However, the EDS-finite-rate combustion model fails to provide an acceptable temperature field. Based on the acceptable velocity and temperature fields, a number of NO modeling approaches were evaluated in a post-processing mode. The partial-equilibrium approach of O and OH radical concentrations shows a significant effect on the thermal NO formation rate. In contrast, the prompt NO, the NO re-burn mechanism and the third reaction of the extended Zeldovich mechanism have negligible effects on the overall NO formation in the present study. This study indicates that the semi-empirical, post-processing NO model can provide valuable NO simulations as long as the velocity and temperature fields are adequately predicted.

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