Aircraft engine manufacturers Safran, GKN Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney are involved in one of University West’s new research projects. The image shows a Safran gas turbine for the Airbus A320neo. Copyright Safran/Cyril Abad/CAPA Pictures.
An important aspect of the aerospace industry’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation is developing lighter, more efficient jet engines.
“One way is to increase the combustion temperature in the engine’s combustion chamber,” explains Nicolaie Markocsan, Professor of Thermal Spraying at University West. “Another way is to reduce the weight of the engine. Ceramic composites can withstand very high temperatures. They also have excellent properties and weigh a third of the superalloys used in today’s aircraft engines.
“But one problem is that ceramic composites are adversely affected by the water vapour in the engine’s combustion gases. The solution is to coat the ceramic composite with a dense layer to avoid contact with these gases. Thermal spraying can be an excellent coating technique for environmental barrier coatings.”
Thermal spraying is an inexpensive and relatively simple way to coat surfaces with materials to protect metals, composites and other materials from various types of wear. Researchers at University West have long attracted international recognition for their thermal spraying research.
“Our previous research findings within thermal spraying have attracted the interest of the aerospace industry. Some of the biggest players in the aircraft engine industry have now invited us to take part in this project. The fact that competing companies such as Pratt & Whitney and Safran want to collaborate on this research shows the impact of the climate crisis, and perhaps also their confidence in the university’s research.
“The aerospace industry wants to investigate whether thermal spraying could be a suitable coating technology for the new generation of aircraft engines. We hope to contribute towards solving some of the problems involved in developing sufficiently dense layers with optimal microstructure.”
The researchers will now build up knowledge about how coating ceramic composites using thermal spraying affects the microstructure of the composite. The aim is to develop a production process that gives optimal results and is transferable to industry.
The three-year research project is carried out with support from the strategic innovation program LIGHTer, a joint venture of Vinnova, Formas and the Swedish Energy Agency.
The project partners are GKN Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Safran, Saint-Gobain, Northwest MetTech and TS Engineering.
Contact: Nicolaie Markocsan