Oct 17, 2017 | By Julia

The gas turbine industry just got a serious boost, thanks to a Pittsburgh researcher who’s using 3D printing solutions to revitalize the aging technology.

Dr. Minking Chyu is a Distinguished Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, whose research into 3D printed turbines recently impressed the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to the tune of $600,000.

Yesterday the DOE announced the massive funding package to Dr. Chyu’s groundbreaking study, titled “Integrated Transpiration and Lattice Cooling Systems Developed by Additive Manufacturing with Oxide-Dispersion-Strengthened Alloy.” Coupled with the $177,192 cost-share from the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Chyu has received a total of $777,192 towards his work in 3D printed turbine solutions.

While gas turbines have been in widespread use since the early 1900s, the modern technology is far from perfect. As a type of internal combustion engine that mixes air, fuel, and combustion to rapidly spin fan-shaped blades (or airfoils) to create mechanical energy, gas turbines are ideal for power generation, yet exhibit a serious downfall.

“While generating enormous amounts of energy, gas turbines also generate enormous amounts of heat and are at risk of being damaged by these high temperatures,” Dr. Chyu explains.

But 3D printing could be the key to cooling these industrial combustion engines, according to Chyu. Together with his research team, the Leighton and Mary Orr Chair Professor has begun exploring how 3D printed lattice and transpiration cooling systems, in addition to specially developed Oxide Dispersion-Strengthened (ODS) Alloys, can protect turbine blades from overheating.

"The alloys we're developing increase the melting point of the turbine's components, and therefore improve their heat resistance," Dr Chyu says. "Additive manufacturing enables us to create complex lattice structures that allow cool air to enter the turbines and reduce temperature even further."

When equipped with these alloys and 3D printed structures, turbines are much less likely to suffer heat damage, but also can be operated at a higher temperature for improved efficiency. It’s a win-win for the U.S. Department of Energy, which has now invested hundreds of thousands on the technology. Eventually, the DOE hopes, the gas turbine industry will see serious improvements overall thanks to Chyu’s work.

Chyu’s study is one of nine projects recently funded by the DOE office of Fossil Energy, which is awarding a total of $5.4 million to turbine research as part of the University Turbine Systems Research program. Managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the program focuses on developing advanced turbine innovations for increasing energy efficiency, reducing emissions, and improving performance.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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