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Nanoparticle coating could let aircraft engines last three times longer

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March 22, 2014

The new coating protects airplane engine components from heat damage, while lasting longer...

The new coating protects airplane engine components from heat damage, while lasting longer than existing similar coatings

The higher the temperature at which an aircraft engine is able to run, the more efficiently it uses fuel. In order to run at those high temperatures, the metal components of airplane engines are presently treated with heat-shielding coatings. Scientists at Sweden's University West, however, are developing a new such coating that is said to be far more effective than anything presently used – it could extend the service life of engines by 300 percent.

The coating consists a powder made up of ceramic and plastic nanoparticles, that is added to a liquid carrier. While the ceramic particles provide insulation against the heat, the plastic allows tiny pores to form within the coating, giving it some elasticity – that's an important consideration, as the coating must be able to expand and contract with the metal that it's covering.

The powder-containing liquid is heated up to 7,000 - 8,000ºC (12,632 - 14,432ºF), causing the ceramic particles to melt, then applied in a process known as plasma spray application. Once adhered to the metal, it takes the form of a 0.5 mm-thick "forest" of tiny standing columns.

Traditional coatings, by contrast, are more like sandwiched layers that are stacked one on top of the other, on top of the metal. According to the scientists, the new coating's structure not only allows it to be more flexible and thus less prone to cracking, but also allows it to adhere better to irregular surfaces.

In thermal shock tests, that simulate the abrupt changes in temperature experienced by aircraft engines, the coating was found to last three times as long as conventional coatings. This means that the engines shouldn't require servicing as often, and should last longer. As a side benefit, the coating itself should be considerably less expensive than coatings currently used.

It is hoped that the technology will find its way into airplane engines and gas turbines within the next two years.

Source: University West

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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5 Comments

Hmm, so which is it three times longer ie. 200% more or is it 300% more and therefore four times longer?

I am fascinated what new material technology is bringing,e be it silver added to socks to combat odor or like here where a coating protects engine parts making them last much longer. I am however also worried about the potential new problems that may come with new materials, like for instance the classic example of asbestos which brings so many great qualities and a very unfortunate drawback inform of causing lung damage.

BZD
23rd March, 2014 @ 08:37 am PDT

No mention is made of what components are being treated. I assume it would be the turbine blades in the hot end of a gas turbine, rather than pistons and valves in an IC engine. More info please.

Martin Hone
23rd March, 2014 @ 05:37 pm PDT

BZD, explain your question. Where did you see the 200% figure mentioned? As for your concern regarding product safety and unintended consequences, what's your point? Our bodies are essentially bags whose content is mostly water, yet water can just as easily kill us as it can sustain us.

Noel K Frothingham
23rd March, 2014 @ 08:25 pm PDT

Noel K Frothingham, if something lasted 100% longer, it would be twice as long as it was. Therefore if something lasted 200% longer, it would be thrice as long and so on. The article says three times as long but also says 300% longer which is a contradiction (300% being 4 times as long).

Wazz
23rd March, 2014 @ 11:47 pm PDT

This development is interesting and might be useful in the future, however the article is a bit misleading when it says:

"Once adhered to the metal, it takes the form of a 0.5 mm-thick "forest" of tiny standing columns.

Traditional coatings, by contrast, are more like sandwiched layers that are stacked one on top of the other, on top of the metal."

Well, beside the fact that 500 microns is a thick TBC (Thermal Barrier Coating) let's have a look at a rather traditional EB-PVD TBC structure:

http://www.springerimages.com/img/Images/Springer/JOU=11661/VOL=2011.42/ISU=4/ART=436/MediaObjects/MEDIUM_11661_2010_436_Fig1_HTML.jpg

Kind of a ""forest" of tiny standing columns"...

Giolli Joker
24th March, 2014 @ 02:14 am PDT
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