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Turbine Cooling Through Additive Manufacturing

Project Number: 056
Category: Aircraft Technology Innovation

Gains in cooling performance of turbine airfoils have a direct impact on the efficiency and durability (lifetime) of turbine engines, and therefore is the subject of much development. Many cooling designs for turbine airfoils use double-wall cooling, which are complex micro-channels placed within the wall of the airfoil to extract heat. The geometric complexities and effectiveness of the micro-channels are limited by the current design space available using conventional investment casting and core tooling methods to manufacture relatively small intricate internal cooling features. This project will investigate potential thermal performance and aerodynamic efficiency improvements made possible by exploring the expanded cooling design space opportunities by directly fabricating complex cooling geometries using advanced metal-based additive manufacturing techniques. These techniques have begun to see many uses in the gas turbine industry, particularly because of the new design space they enable. However, the ability to manufacture intricate double-wall cooling airfoil design concepts is not known. This research would generate some of the first thermal performance data at engine-relevant conditions comparing traditional cast airfoils to those manufactured using advanced techniques. Understanding the potential of innovative geometric cooling design features will serve as an important guide to future investments in advanced manufacturing and cooling design technologies. The research team will work directly with Pratt & Whitney to ensure that feasible designs are examined.


There are two important outcomes from this study that will benefit the aviation industry. First, it is critical that gas turbine manufacturers who use additive manufacturing (AM) to quickly assess new designs properly understand how AM components perform relative to traditionally cast components. This outcome will be achieved through a direct comparison of cast turbine airfoils with additively manufactured turbine airfoils both of which contain complex double-wall cooling features. Second, it is important to assess improvements in double-wall cooling for turbine airfoils that can be gained through achieving a wider design space enabled by additive manufacturing.

Last Updated 4/12/2023

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