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New ceramic coatings to improve durability of turbine engines

In the recent print edition of Watts News, Ohio State University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering newsletter, an article describes new developments that may extend the life of gas turbine engines.

ACerS student member and MSE doctoral candidate Andy Gledhill, under the leadership of Nitin Padture, has developed a computer-controlled “blowtorch” that is constructed to simulate the thermal environment in gas turbine engines. With this equipment, rapid thermal cycling of ceramic coatings used in turbines can be tested to predict lifetimes as well as understand the effects of impurities ingested in the engines, such as sand, coal and ash/dust.

“I’m trying to simulate the environment in which turbine engines operate – where temperatures can operate between 25 and 1,200° C. It can be tricky to replicate that environment,” says Gledhill.

Gledhill has been working on the project for two years, and says the goal of his research is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the degradation of thermal barrier coatings due to ash deposits, and to find a way to mitigate the impact of those deposits.

Gledhill believes his research will open more possibilities for electricity-producing turbine manufacturers to switch from natural gas as their fuel source to syngas which is much more affordable. The obstacle with syngas is that it contains impurities that generate deposits which degrade the zirconia thermal barrier coating.

“There is growing evidence that the use of syngas in turbine engines results in different types of degradation to thermal barrier coatings compared to using conventional fuels,” says Gledhill.