An innovative new protective coating for jet engine compressor blades, demonstrated in an ESTCP-funded study, could save DoD tens of millions of dollars by extending the life of the engines and improving fuel efficiency, and at the same time reducing carbon emissions.
Jet engines are used in thousands of military aircraft and tanks. A key component of these engines is an axial compressor, made up of several rows of airfoils, which are wing-shaped pieces of metal. During the operation of the aircraft and tank engines, these airfoils constantly spin at rapid speeds, and air and particulates, such as sand, pass through them. Over time, the surfaces of these airfoils wear down and decrease the efficiency of the engine, requiring more fuel to be used to achieve the same performance. The airfoils, which must operate in extremely high temperatures, are made of high-performance metals and are very expensive to replace.
In the ESTCP study, Mr. Greg Kilchenstein of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Logistics and Materiel Readiness, and his multi-Service team demonstrated that applying a thin erosion-corrosion resistant coating can extend the life of the airfoils and improve fuel efficiency. The coating is a multilayer ceramic-metallic matrix applied in a vacuum using a cathodic arc physical vapor deposition process. The study found that the coating can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 5 percent, which could result in substantial savings in fuel costs, as well as reducing carbon emissions. The study also demonstrated these innovative coatings can extend the life of the airfoils, leading to further cost savings by reducing repairs and extending the life of the aircraft and tank engines.
For this impressive work, Mr. Kilchenstein received a 2013 ESTCP Project-of-the-Year Award. Project Summary