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Optical Analysis Evaluates Jet Engine Coatings

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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Researchers in the U.K. say they’ve pioneered a method of detecting areas of weakness in the thermal barrier coatings that protect jet engine turbines, an innovation that could help with quality control and the development of new ceramic coatings.

Optical analysis
Peter J. Schemmel, Heriot-Watt University

The team, at Heriot-Watt University, used gigahertz illumination to analyze the refractive index of ceramic coatings on jet engine turbines that were exposed to tensile strain.

The Optical Society of America reports that a team from Heriot-Watt University, with support from jet engine manufacture Rolls-Royce, developed the optical analysis method. In the study, changes in the refractive index of coated turbine blades were observed before and after the blades were subjected to strain in a tensile machine.

“Our strain-measurement technique can analyze the coatings immediately after manufacturing and work to identify the turbine blades that would last the longest in the airplane,” said the team’s head researcher, Andrew J. Moore. “Ultimately, we want to develop an imaging device that would show the strain distribution in the coating of an entire turbine blade, information that would be used to decide if that turbine blade would go into service.”

Accelerated Aging

The team used gigahertz illumination to analyze the refractive index of the coatings and how it changed after tensile stress. They are also in the process of performing accelerated aging testing on the turbines in order to examine the correlation between differences in refractive index and service life before coating failure.

“If we can correlate how the strain distribution is related to the coating’s lifetime, then we could determine which coatings will fail first and shouldn’t be put into an aircraft and which ones will last much longer,” said Moore. “This would increase the time between services significantly, which would bring huge savings.”

The team is also experimenting with terahertz illumination, according to the Optical Society.

The new research was published in Optics Express.

   

Tagged categories: Aerospace; Ceramic coatings; Industrial coatings; Quality control; Testing + Evaluation

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