Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Noise Supression

Aircraft powered by gas turbine engines sometimes require noise suppression for the engine exhaust gases when operating from airports located in or near highly populated areas. Several types of noise suppressor are used. A common type of noise suppressor is an integral, airborne part of the aircraft engine installation or engine exhaust nozzle. Engine noise comes from several sources on the engine, the fan, or compressor and the air discharge from the core of the engine. There are three sources of noise involved in the operation of a gas turbine engine. The engine air intake and vibration from engine housing are sources of some noise, but the noise generated does not compare in magnitude with that produced by the engine exhaust. [Figure 1]

Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Noise Supression
Figure 1. Engine noise from engine exhaust is created by the turbulence of a high velocity jet stream moving through the relatively quiet atmosphere

The noise produced by the engine exhaust is caused by the high degree of turbulence of a high-velocity jet stream moving through a relatively quiet atmosphere. For a distance of a few nozzle diameters downstream behind the engine, the velocity of the jet stream is high, and there is little mixing of the atmosphere with the jet stream. In this region, the turbulence within the high speed jet stream is very fine grain turbulence, and produces relatively high-frequency noise. This noise is caused by violent, turbulent mixing of the exhaust gases with the atmosphere and is influenced by the shearing action caused by the relative speeds between the velocity and the atmosphere.

Farther downstream, as the velocity of the jet stream slows down, the jet stream mixes with the atmosphere and turbulence of a coarser type begins. Compared with noise from other portions of the jet stream, noise from this portion has a much lower frequency. As the energy of the jet stream finally is dissipated in large turbulent swirls, a greater portion of the energy is converted into noise. The noise generated as the exhaust gases dissipate is at a frequency near the low end of the audible range. The lower the frequency of the noise, the greater the distance the noise travels. This means that the low-frequency noises reach an individual on the ground in greater volume than the high-frequency noises, and hence are more objectionable. High-frequency noise is weakened more rapidly than low-frequency noise, both by distance and the interference of buildings, terrain, and atmospheric disturbances. A deep-voiced, low-frequency foghorn, for example, may be heard much farther than a shrill, high-frequency whistle, even though both may have the same overall volume (decibels) at their source.

Noise levels vary with engine thrust and are proportional to the amount of work done by the engine on the air that passes through it. An engine having relatively low airflow but high thrust due to high turbine discharge (exhaust gas) temperature, pressure, and/or afterburning produces a gas stream of high velocity and, therefore, high noise levels. A larger engine, handling more air, is quieter at the same thrust. Thus, the noise level can be reduced considerably by operating the engine at lower power settings, and large engines operating at partial thrust are less noisy than smaller engines operating at full thrust. Compared with a turbojet, a turbofan version of the same engine is quieter during takeoff. The noise level produced by a fan-type engine is less, principally because the exhaust gas velocities ejected at the engine tailpipe are slower than those for a turbojet of comparative size.

Fan engines require a larger turbine to provide additional power to drive the fan. The large turbine, which usually has an additional turbine stage, reduces the velocity of the gas and, therefore, reduces the noise produced because exhaust gas noise is proportional to exhaust gas velocity. The exhaust from the fan is at a relatively low velocity and, therefore, does not create a noise problem. Because of the characteristic of low-frequency noise to linger at a relatively high volume, effective noise reduction for a turbojet aircraft must be achieved by revising the noise pattern or by changing the frequency of the noise emitted by the jet nozzle.

The noise suppressors in current use are either of the corrugated-perimeter type, or the multi-tube type. [Figure 2] Both types of suppressors break up the single, main jet exhaust stream into a number of smaller jet streams. This increases the total perimeter of the nozzle area and reduces the size of the air stream eddies created as the gases are discharged into the open air. Although the total noise-energy remains unchanged, the frequency is raised considerably. The size of the air stream eddies scales down at a linear rate with the size of the exhaust stream. This has two effects: 1) the change in frequency may put some of the noise above the audibility range of the human ear, and 2) high frequencies within the audible range, while perhaps more annoying, are more highly attenuated by atmospheric absorption than are low frequencies. Thus, the falloff in intensity is greater and the noise level is less at any given distance from the aircraft.

Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Noise Supression
Figure 2. Noise suppressors currently in use are corrugated-perimeter type, or multi-tube type

In the engine nacelle, the area between the engine and the cowl has acoustic linings surrounding the engine. This noise-absorbing lining material converts acoustic energy into heat. These linings normally consist of a porous skin supported by a honeycomb backing and provide a separation between the fact sheet and the engine duct. For optimum suppression, the acoustic properties of the skin and the liner are carefully matched.