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£8M laser imaging research to make gas turbine jet engines greener

07 Sep 2020

Strathclyde leading UK project Laser Imaging of Turbine Engine Combustion Species to improve combustion modeling.

The University of Strathclyde, UK, is leading on an £8 million laser imaging research program intended to reduce the environmental impact of aviation and power generating gas turbine engines (GTEs).

The Laser Imaging of Turbine Engine Combustion Species (LITECS) program aims to deliver transformational combustion measurement and modeling tools to enable the development of low emission engine designs and evaluation of new low emission fuels, leading to reduced environmental impact.

Funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, and industry, the consortium of the universities of Strathclyde, Edinburgh, Manchester, Southampton, Loughborough and Sheffield, will build on the achievements of a previous £2.8m program that used new laser techniques to demonstrate, for the first time, two dimensional imaging of carbon dioxide in the exhaust plume of a full-scale commercial gas turbine aero-engine.

Researchers, backed by industry partners Rolls-Royce, Siemens Energy, OptoSci, M Squared Lasers and Tracerco, are working to establish several new non-intrusive multi-beam laser measurement systems for simultaneous imaging of the concentration of multiple gases, soot and temperature in the exhausts and combustion zones of GTEs.

Measurement data

The resulting measurement data will be used to develop new understanding of the combustion and emissions generation processes and apply it to advancing our strategies for emissions reduction. Measurements will be made for a range of engine conditions and new fuels, enabling for the first time, direct experimental evaluation of new fuel types and their potential to achieve reduced emissions.

Research lead Professor Walter Johnstone, from Strathclyde’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering (EEE) is supported by Dr Michael Lengden, from EEE, who has a leading role in many technical aspects of the entire programme. Johnstone will lead Strathclyde’s technical contribution in gas measurement and Dr Iain Burns, from the department or Chemical and Process Engineering, will lead Strathclyde’s technical contribution on soot measurements.

Johnstone commented, “Serious emissions reduction can only come from new, disruptive, measurement technologies that transform the experimental characterisation, understanding and modelling of the combustion and emissions generation processes and enable direct experimental evaluation of the performance of alternative fuels.

“The LITECS programme brings together six world leading UK engineering universities, supported by industry, to provide the multi-disciplinary expertise to address these needs. Success will advance our strategies towards significant emissions reduction and ensure the UK is a world leader in turbine engine combustion research.”

ORC particpation

The University of Southampton's expertise in optical fiber fabrication, fiber laser sources, and mid-infrared fibers is to contribute to the LITECS program. The Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), part of the Zepler Institute, will make key contributions to the research in the areas of fiber lasers and amplifiers and delivery fiber at wavelengths longer than 2μm.

"This programme requires that we develop and fabricate fibers with new compositions in order to extend the technology to new wavelengths with the performance, size, and reliability required for LITECS," said Professor Johan Nilsson of the ORC.

"There are tremendous advantages offered by optical fibers, which are very attractive for the chemical-species imaging in LITECS. The ORC/Zepler Institute are well placed to take on the challenge of these new technologies and deliver effective solutions, as we have done for more many decades now."

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