National Physical Laboratory

Power generation materials testing

Modern regimes of power generator operation puts stress on critical turbine components leading to wear and fatigue. This project attempted to identify and test materials that might improve turbine component resilience.

Power play

The Challenge

Traditionally, gas turbines in power stations would only be shut down at weekends. Today, they increasingly operate 'on-demand', starting up and shutting down many times a day. This puts greater stress on turbine components, particularly combustion seals, and accelerates wear. There is therefore a need for robust engineering design and good materials data which can be used to analyse performance and enable turbines to operate efficiently.

The Solution

To address the need NPL brought together the expertise of three industry partners - a designer and manufacturer of gas turbines (Alstom Power UK Ltd), a manufacturer of resilient metal seals (Nicholsons Sealing Technologies Ltd) and a specialist in seal coatings (Praxair Surface Technologies Ltd).

The project aimed to improve the selection of materials used to make combustion chamber seals - critical components at risk of degradation. It developed reliable test procedures to measure wear and friction up to 850 ÂșC - the temperature regime over which the gas turbines typically operate - and will enable development of products that meet future market needs.

The Impact


"We were able to select a new type of seal as a result of the project, and we are now looking to build on this knowledge."
Dr Pete Barnard of Alstom Power

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Last Updated: 6 Mar 2013
Created: 28 Oct 2010

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