PhD Studentship Erosion and Antifouling Surfaces for Fan Blades

Ref:  EngSci-nCATS-107
Research group: National Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment
Deadline: Applications will be accepted at any time until the position is filled.

In service deterioration of fan and compressor efficiency is a major problem for gas turbine engine manufactures. Aero-engines operate in demanding environments often with long periods between overall shop visits.

In the case of fan blades water droplet erosion changes the leading edge profile leading to reduced aerodynamic efficiency and increased risk of blade flutter. In some cases particulate media and ice may exacerbate the level of material loss. One approach to protecting both titanium and carbon fibre reinforced composite blades is to apply erosion resistant coatings to their leading edges. The component size and geometry is a key factor in the choice of coating processes but the application of nano-reinforced coating systems may provide a way forward.

A further problem arises in the compressor where the overall loss of aerodynamic efficiency due to increased surface roughness coupled with leading edge deterioration can significantly increase specific fuel consumption during flight. Whilst it is believed that erosion removes material and changes overall shape it also can roughen the aerofoil surface. This then increases the tendency for material debris to attach to the surfaces further increasing roughness and reducing aerodynamic efficiency. Coatings with anti-fouling capabilities together with a degree of erosion protection may therefore help to reduce this problem.

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In both of these cases a solution would increase efficiency of the engine and enable less fuel burn and is therefore aimed at a more environmentally acceptable propulsion technology.

This Rolls-Royce sponsored PhD would address the potential for coating systems in both of these applications. The scope would entail developing an understanding of the current engine problems including deterioration mechanisms (erosion and fouling) and determining the suitability of coating technologies through simple laboratory and rig testing. From the industrial perspective Rolls-Royce would be able to provide technical supervision for this programme.     

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