Inside a jet engine - measuring temperature through flames





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Published on Jun 3, 2011

This video publication shows the application of a 'smart' thermometer build into a jet engine for demonstration purposes and is based on peer reviewed scientific papers. Measurements are performed continuously for several hours at a time on nozzle guide vanes (NGV) sitting in the hot gas stream, inside a combustion chamber looking through a flame and on a rotating turbine blade at 350 meters per second (1,250km/h).
The scientific and engineering background is broadly discussed in the abstract below and peer reviewed references are also given for more in-depth studies.
This project entitled 'SeCSy -- Sensor Coating Systems' was shortlisted for the UK Technology & Innovation Award 2011 by The Engineer magazine.
The scientific paper describing the work and the system was awarded the Best Paper Award 2012 in the category 'Manufacturing Materials & Metallurgy' from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at the Turbo Expo 2012 (reference below).

Background -- accurate temperature detection for more efficient operation
Thermal barrier coatings are used to reduce the actual working temperature of the high pressure turbine blade metal surface and hence permit the engine to operate at higher more efficient temperatures. Sensor coatings are an adaptation of existing thermal barrier coatings to enhance their functionality, such that they not only protect engine components from the high temperature gas, but can also measure the material temperature accurately and determine the health of the coating e.g. ageing, erosion and corrosion. The sensing capability is introduced by embedding optically active materials into the thermal barrier coatings and by illuminating these coatings with excitation light, eg a laser, phosphorescence can be observed. The phosphorescence carries temperature and structural information about the coating. Accurate temperature measurements in the engine hot section would eliminate some of the conservative margins which currently need to be imposed to permit safe operation. Note that a 50K underestimation at high operating temperatures can lead to significant pre-mature failure of the protective coating and loss of integrity. Knowledge of the exact temperature could enable the adaptation of the most efficient coating strategies using the minimum amount of air. The integration of an on-line temperature detection system would enable the full potential of thermal barrier coatings to be realised due to improved accuracy in temperature measurement and early warning of degradation. This in turn will increase fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.

Video presentation -- system installation and operation
This video shows the implementation of a sensor coating system on a Rolls-Royce jet engine. The system consists of three components: industrially manufactured robust coatings, advanced remote detection optics and improved control and readout software. The majority of coatings were based on yttria stabilized zirconia doped with Dy (dysprosium) and Eu (europium), although other coatings made of yttrium aluminium garnet were manufactured as well. Coatings were produced on a production line using atmospheric plasma spraying (process not shown in video). Parallel tests at Didcot power station revealed survivability of specific coatings in excess of 4,500 effective operating hours. It is deduced that the capability of these coatings is in the range of normal maintenance schedules of industrial gas turbines of 24,000 hours or even longer.

An advanced optical system was designed and manufactured permitting easy scanning of coated components and also the detection of phosphorescence on rotating turbine blades (13k RPM) at stand-off distances of up to 400mm. Successful temperature measurements were taken from the nozzle guide vanes (hot), the combustion chamber (noisy) and the rotating turbine blades (moving) and compared with thermocouple and pyrometer installations for validation purposes.

Scientific Publications:

[1] J. P. Feist, P. Y. Sollazzo, S. Berthier, B. Charnley and J. Wells, Application of an Industrial Sensor Coating System on a Rolls-Royce Jet Engine for Temperature Detection, ASME J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power 135, 012101 (2012)

[2] J. P. Feist, P. Y. Sollazzo, S. Berthier, B. Charnley and J. Wells, Precision Temperature Detection Using a Phosphorescence Sensor Coating System on a Rolls-Royce Viper Engine, ASME GT2012_69779


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