The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding more than $3.3 million to 7 universities to conduct advanced turbine technology studies under the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) University Turbine Systems Research (UTSR) Program. The universities—located in Georgia, Texas, North Dakota, Louisiana, California, and New York—will investigate the technology needed for the efficient operation of turbines using coal-derived synthesis gas (syngas) and high hydrogen content (HHC) fuels.

This technology is crucial to developing advanced coal-based power generation processes, such as integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), and eventually deploying IGCC power plants that capture and sequester carbon dioxide.

The UTSR program uses university research to advance fundamental turbine technology development, support industry by providing cutting edge experimental research and modeling tools that address important technical challenges, and provide US students with practical training in gas turbine technologies. The initiative is managed by FE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The selected projects, each 36 months in duration, include:

Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Atlanta, Ga. This project will improve the understanding of turbulent flame propagation characteristics of syngas and HHC fuels at realistic conditions and also in inhomogeneous environments, such as in premixer nozzle boundary layers and core flows—while extending existing data sets to a broader reactant class of HHC fuels, such as mixtures diluted with CO2, H2O, and N2, at realistic pressures, temperatures, and turbulence intensities and other design/operating conditions, including systems with extensive levels of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).

This research will also develop physics-based models of turbulent burning rates in realistic flows to further assist the gas turbine industry. (DOE share: $404,404; recipient share: $101,212)

Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. This project will develop a database of turbulent burning velocities, NOx mechanism validation data (including ‘first-of-a-kind’ direct measurements of NNH to NO reaction rates), a comprehensive fuel mechanism with a validated NOx submechanism, and experimental data on the effect of contaminants on laminar flame speed and ignition kinetics.

This scientific research will enable the development of syngas/HHC-fired gas turbines to achieve very low emissions through the design of advanced modeling tools that are carefully validated. (DOE share: $501,711; recipient share: $125,500)

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas. This project seeks to develop integrated film cooling and thermal barrier coatings (TBC) configurations that will mitigate the effects of contaminants that naturally occur when using syngas/HHC fuels. Experimental simulations of optimized cooling designs and detailed aero-thermal measurements will guide the development of improved computational models of these complex designs.

The University of Texas research will focus on film cooling crater and trench configurations on a simulated vane experiencing active deposition of contaminants. Partner Penn State University will focus research on the optimization of film cooling configurations for the contoured endwalls. An optimum cooling configuration for the endwall-vane junction will be developed based on the results of the joint studies at Penn State and University of Texas. (DOE share: $500,000; recipient share: $120,000)

University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D. This research will develop the heat transfer and deposition predictive tools and surface protective cooling technologies which allow for the reliable design of leading edge cooling schemes in a syngas environment. This research is important since it has been found that cooling the leading edge of a first stage of a modern gas turbine offers considerable challenges due to an aggressive heat transfer environment and a very modest pressure difference for cooling.

The University of North Dakota studies will be performed at three different experimental rigs to investigate: the effects of leading edge diameters on stagnation region deposition rates and heat transfer augmentation under a variety of conditions; the effectiveness levels for film cooling geometries on both smooth and rough surfaces; and new internal cooling methods which may be able to accommodate stagnation region heat loads at the aggressive inlet temperatures of modern gas turbines. (DOE share: $500,000; recipient share: $125,000)

Louisiana State University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, La. This project will develop novel molecular dynamics methods to improve the efficiency of novel TBC materials, and demonstrate the new TBC systems under IGCC environments. Because computational materials based TBC design tools are currently not available, this research offers the possibility for completely new efficient TBC computational design tool, making a step change to current advanced TBC design methodology.

In this research project, the most promising TBC compositions will be subject to high performance computing, material characterizations, and oxidation and corrosion tests, including a High Temperature/High Pressure Durability Test Rig to evaluate the durability of the coatings. (DOE share: $504,863; recipient share: $129,808)

University of California-Irvine, Irvine, Calif. This project will investigate degradation mechanisms of hot-turbine hot section component protective oxides and high-temperature TBCs unique to coal-derived syngas and HHC fuel. This research is important because preliminary testing has shown that the chemical composition and growth kinetics of protective thermally grown oxides (TGOs) are substantially altered for turbine systems operating on syngas and HHC fuels. Thus, one key objective of this new research project is to identify the root cause this anomalous oxidation behavior and develop mitigation strategies.

This project will address thermo-chemical and thermo-mechanical mechanisms by correlating results of accelerated coating degradation with the syngas/HHC environment and the impurities characteristics of coal-derived syngas and HHC fuels. This improved mechanistic understanding of the degradation of critical turbine system materials in HHC-fueled systems may also guide the development of more robust materials sets that could be important to the gas turbine industry. (DOE share: $500,000; recipient share: $125,000)

Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, N.Y. This project will explore the science and technology of advanced TBCs in IGCC turbines that use HHC fuels. Recent research data indicate that the current bill of coating materials is not directly translatable to the moisture-rich, ash-laden environment present with syngas/HHC fuels. Thus, the Stony Brook University research focuses on a multi-layer, multifunctional strategy comprising of discretely engineered coating layers to combat the various technical issues through a concerted effort integrating material science, processing science and performance studies, including recent developments in advanced in-situ thermal spray coating property measurement for full-field enhancement of coating and process reliability.

In concert with industrial partners, this project will elevate the science-based understanding along with the roles that processing and novel materials can play in extending bond coat and top coat lifetimes, and provide a new framework for examining the processing-performance relationship in multilayer thermal barriers as a pathway for reliable IGCC coating development and provide new insight for the thermal spray industry.(DOE share: $401,238; recipient share: $115,797)