00:00 AM

Cool Your Airfoils

DOE Awards University of Pittsburgh’s Minking Chyu $777K to Improve Gas Turbines with 3D Printing

PITTSBURGH (October 16, 2017) … Gas turbines serve a variety of power generation purposes ranging from jet engine propulsion to electricity production. Their impressive energy output also results in high-temperatures capable of causing extreme damage and limiting their lifespan. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), are developing advanced strategies to reduce the adverse effects of extremely high-temperatures on turbines.

“A gas turbine is a type of internal combustion engine that mixes air, fuel, and combustion to rapidly spin fan-shaped blades—or airfoils—and create mechanical energy. 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,” explained Minking Chyu, Distinguished Service Professor and the Leighton and Mary Orr Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Dr. Chyu received $777,192 for the study “Integrated Transpiration and Lattice Cooling Systems Developed by Additive Manufacturing with Oxide-Dispersion-Strengthened Alloy.” The DOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE), which funds research and development projects to improve advanced fossil energy technologies and to encourage a sustainable approach to fossil resources, awarded $600,000, and $177,192 cost-share from the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Chyu and his research team will explore applications for an anti-oxidation coating that can help cool airfoils and other hot-section components in gas turbines. They are working with new materials called Oxide Dispersion-Strengthened (ODS) Alloys to protect turbine blades by making them more resistant to high temperatures. Combining these alloys with 3D-printed lattice and transpiration cooling systems, the turbines not only are much less likely to suffer heat damage but also can be operated with a higher temperature for better efficiency.

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

The University of Pittsburgh study is one of nine projects the DOE FE selected to receive $5.4 million in federal funding for turbine research as part of its University Turbine Systems Research (UTSR) program. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) manages the UTSR program and focuses on developing advance turbine technologies to increase energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve performance. 

About Dr. Chyu
Dr. Chyu received his PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota. He was a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University for 13 years before joining the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. He is the Associate Dean for International Initiatives at the Swanson School and Dean of the Sichuan University – Pittsburgh Institute in Chengdu, China. 

His primary research interests are in thermal and material issues relating to energy, power, and aero propulsion systems. Dr. Chyu is a recipient of four NASA Certificates of Recognition for his contributions on the US space shuttle main engineer program. He has served as an Air Force Summer Research Fellow, Department of Energy Oak Ridge Research Fellow, and DOE Advanced-Turbine-System Faculty Fellow. 

He is also a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aerospace and Aeronautics (AIAA). Dr. Chyu has published more than 300 technical papers in archived journals, books, and conference proceedings.


Image above: Dr. Chyu (right) examining an investment casting airfoil with former PhD student Sean Siw, who now works at Siemens Energy in Orlando on blade cooling tasks. By using the additive manufacturing process instead of investment casting, Dr. Chyu hopes to coat the airfoils with a protective, cooling structure built inside the ODS layer.

Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer