Feb 6, 2017 | By Benedict

Scientists at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) have used 3D printing to develop an expansion turbine for electric generators that operate on high-pressure natural gas. The research is described by SPbPU as a ‘huge step’ towards sustainable energy in Russia.

Although it’s pretty difficult to travel from one end of Russia to the other, living in the world’s largest country has its perks—if you work in its oil and gas industry, at least. That’s because the huge country has a fittingly huge supply of natural resources, including natural gas, that contributes greatly to the country having the 15th largest economy in the world by nominal GDP. To this day, Russian scientists continue to find new ways of using the country’s abundance of natural resources in the most efficient (and profitable) way.

Last week, scientists at SPbPU announced the development of an expansion turbine for a turboexpander electric generator that generates electricity from natural gas. The turbine is capable of triggering significant pressure drop at a low volume flow of natural gas with an electrical power of 1 kW, and is made from 3D printed plastic parts. The partially 3D printed generator can convert part of its emitted energy (that would otherwise be wasted and cause pollution to the environment) into usable electrical power.

“Natural gas deposits and [the] developed gas transport system (GTS) infrastructure of Russia are a national treasure that makes the country a leader in extraction and supply of natural gas—the cleanest type of fossil fuel,” the SPbPU researchers say. “The operation of the GTS has a direct effect on energy, social, and economic security; in addition, Russia is the main supplier of gas to European countries. Therefore, the modernization of the GTS is one of the main directions of governmental work.”

An important part of the modernization of the national gas transport system, the researchers say, involves using new and innovative manufacturing processes to make each part of a generator as effective as it can be. In this research project, the scientists found that, by using abutting contact shoulders to supplement a 3D printed plastic disc in the turbine’s main wheel, they could reduce the stress inflicted upon the disc by 25%.

Although the researchers used Nylon 12 for the central disc in the turbine, they noted that, by using 3D Systems’ Accura Xtreme Plastic photopolymer 3D printing material and printing the parts on a stereolithography 3D printer instead, the parts could be made with an improved surface quality and increased stiffness. Furthermore, parts printed in this way could withstand temperatures of between -30°C and 65°C. Further testing, however, would be required before SLA-printed parts could be used.

The research, which was been published in the International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, was conducted under a federal program titled “Research and Development in Priority Directions for the Development of the Scientific and Technological Complex of Russia in 2014-2020.” The turboexpander electric generator with 3D printed expansion turbine is to be installed in a suburb of St. Petersburg later this year.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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