Siemens Energy has opened a facility in Charlottesville, Va., for the commercial production of airfoil ceramic cores for gas turbine blades and vanes using the Tomo-Lithographic Molding (TOMO) technology, initially developed by Mikro Systems.
The advancements are expected to improve the cooling capability of gas turbine blading, thus enabling higher levels of engine performance and efficiency for future Siemens Gas Turbines.
The technology is available to Siemens as part of a technology license agreement with Mikro Systems.
Gas turbines, which are used to produce power for industrial, utility, and aerospace applications, consist sequentially of compressor, combustor, and turbine sections. Incoming air is compressed to a high-pressure state in the compressor section, and heated to high temperature via the combustion of fuel in the combustor section. The high-temperature, high-pressure gas is then expanded through a series of rotor-mounted airfoils in the turbine section, converting the gas’ energy into mechanical work. Therefore, improved airfoil designs, which can tolerate higher gas temperatures and use less cooling air, result in the highest level of efficiency in natural gas turbine energy production.
Siemens says the technology will boost its combined cycle efficiency above its current record of almost 61 percent, and through retrofitting, the new technology can also be applied for improving the efficiency of power plants already in operation.
With support from the Department of Energy and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Mikro Systems was funded via Small Business Innovation Research grants. Mikro Systems and Siemens Energy partnered to develop the application of its patented Tomo manufacturing technology to a range of gas turbine components.