National Physical Laboratory

NPL takes step to more efficient jet engines

One of the ways to make aircraft engines more efficient is to run them at higher temperatures. However to do so safely requires heat-treating the super-alloys of which certain engine components are made to ensure they can withstand hotter conditions.

This process involves exposing these components to very specific temperatures in excess of 1300 ºC. Achieving exact temperatures is critical and getting it wrong by more than two degrees in either direction can have major implications. Temperature sensors called thermocouples are used to ensure correct temperatures are achieved in this process. Previously, thermocouples only offered an accuracy of plus or minus three degrees.

NPL has solved this problem by developing a way of reducing thermocouple uncertainties to less than one degree. Until recently there have been no reference points identified at the high temperatures needed for super-alloy heat treatment.

Now, using a new type of metal alloy, NPL scientists can identify a new range of reference points for thermocouples at and beyond 1300 ºC. With this added confidence in temperature sensors, component manufacturers will be able to run heat treatments at optimum efficiency leading to minimal waste and ultimately more efficient engines.

Find out more about NPL's industrial implementation of a Co-C fixed point for thermocouple calibration.

Read more about NPL's Thermocouples research.

Contact: Jonathan Pearce

Last Updated: 30 Mar 2012
Created: 1 Feb 2011

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