Dr. Andrew Nix, a research assistant professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering at West Virginia University, recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Working through the Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, Nix is conducting an experimental investigation of turbine vane heat transfer for alternative fuels.

The project, now in its third and final year, has moved into the testing phase in the National Energy Technology Laboratory combustion facilities.

The goal of the research is to improve the durability and performance of gas turbine engines in Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plants. IGCC power plants offer a clean-coal alternative to traditional coal power plants as the process offers options to reduce greenhouse gases and produce hydrogen fuels.
“The plants produce high hydrogen content synthesis gas from coal in a gasifier and then burn this fuel in a gas turbine,” said Nix. “The gas turbine produces electric power and then lends its hot exhaust gases to produce steam to run a steam power cycle.”

The exhaust from the combustion section of the turbine may be laden with particulate that can deposit on turbine airfoils, degrading their durability and potentially decreasing their life.

Many students are learning about turbine engine durability, a field which Nix says is a hot commodity in the industrial gas turbine and aircraft engine fields. Two graduate students and a post-doctoral researcher will work closely with Nix on this specific research. Rob Murphy, a graduate research assistant at WVU, and Seth Lawson, a part-time WVU researcher, are both working through DOE’s NETL on this project. Murphy recently completed a DOE University Turbine Systems Research Fellowship where he worked in turbine heat transfer at Solar Turbines in San Diego.

Tim Repko, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering, will be working on this project as well, performing computational fluid dynamics research.
The latest grant of $15,000 brings the total sum invested by DOE to $434,506.

“DOE has interest in improving the state-of-the-art of gas turbine systems and improving their durability, efficiency and life,” Nix said. “The results from this research will facilitate a cleaner option than conventional boilers for utilizing coal in fossil power plants.”

Nix performs research in gas turbine durability, heat transfer and cooling, in addition to diesel engine emissions research, and has devoted considerable effort recently into developing wind energy research programs at WVU.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, CEMR
304-293-4086; mary.dillon@mail.wvu.edu