QuesTek Innovations LLC (Evanston, Illinois, USA) was recently awarded $1.2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
According to the company, the funding will be used to design and develop a novel materials solution for next-generation turbine blade alloys and compatible coating systems. With the funds, QuesTek will design a system of functionally-graded, Niobium-based alloys suitable for additive manufacturing (AM), with a goal of sustaining high-temperature operations and increasing fuel efficiency.
“Designing a new turbine material with significantly better performance than current nickel-based superalloys is one of the biggest challenges facing the field of materials science today,” says Dana Frankel, manager of design and product development. ”We’re excited for this opportunity to apply our proven computational materials design approach to develop a new refractory turbine alloy, paving the way for a step-change in turbine engine performance and efficiency.”
QuesTek says it will apply its models and extensive experience in the design of superalloys, refractory alloys, high entropy alloys, and coatings to design a printable niobium-based multi-material alloy system. The models are based on the company’s integrated computational materials engineering.
The concurrent design of material and component, with the goal of accelerating an adoption of the designed materials into next-generation engines, will be achieved by working with Pratt & Whitney — an original equipment manufacturer of turbine engines — to define aerospace requirements, perform component design, and guide the testing and qualification processes. Furthermore, the project team includes the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for AM process development, and the University of Minnesota for coating development.
QuesTek received this competitive award from ARPA-E’s Ultrahigh Temperature Impervious Materials Advancing Turbine Efficiency (ULTIMATE) program, which is in place to develop and demonstrate ultrahigh-temperature materials that can operate in the high temperature and high stress environments of a gas-turbine blade.
This effort addresses the need to improve gas turbine efficiency for aerospace and energy applications (e.g., ground-based industrial gas turbines), which can be critical for increasing fuel economy and decreasing carbon emissions. Engine efficiency is fundamentally determined by maximum cycle temperatures, and thus scales directly with operating temperatures. However, current state-of-the-art superalloys have limited high-temperature stability.
More information on QuesTek and its modeling and design capabilities for metal AM can be obtained at the group’s web site.
Source: QuesTek Innovations LLC, www.questek.com.