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Dr. Minking Chyu and Sean Siw

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.

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