Penn State START Lab Receives $2.5 Million as Part of FAA Environmental Program
By Shea Bracken
The Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) Laboratory received $2.5 million as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN II) program. Penn State is working as a subcontractor with Pratt & Whitney.
The START Lab is developing advanced cooling technologies to address fuel reduction for turbine engines in commercial and military aircraft. In general, turbine efficiency increases as the fuel temperature increases. These high temperatures can damage turbine blades, making improved blade cooling critical for increased efficiency.
Researchers in the START Lab will explore and test turbine vane and blade components to include cooling and aerodynamic enhancements. In addition to other manufacturing methods, the group will use additive manufacturing to fabricate some of the new technology at Penn State. The group will then test the components using a test turbine that operates with engine hardware under engine relevant flow conditions.
“Reducing the carbon footprint for the aviation industry is becoming increasingly important for the world. We are pleased to be supported by the FAA CLEEN II program as a part of the Pratt & Whitney team to contribute to reducing the fuel consumption of gas turbine engines,” said Karen Thole, professor and department head of mechanical and nuclear engineering, and director of the START Lab.
The five-year CLEEN II program builds on the success of the original CLEEN program, a public-private partnership that began in 2010 and is a key part of the FAA’s NextGen efforts to make aviation more environmentally friendly. In total, the FAA awarded $100 million in contracts to eight companies for CLEEN II.
“CLEEN II represents a genuine investment and commitment by the FAA and the industry to find ways to make aviation even cleaner, quieter, and more energy efficient,” said FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “We expect that when they enter into service, these new technologies will benefit U.S. aircraft for years to come and build on the Obama Administration’s efforts to protect the environment.”
The test turbine housed in the continuous-duration START facility was designed by Pratt & Whitney to operate at conditions representative of modern gas turbine engines. The test turbine and facility provide an ideal environment to evaluate new cooling technologies in a facility that can closely match a real-world turbine engine environment. Funding for the START Laboratory originated with industry, government, and academia. The three partners were Pratt & Whitney, the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Penn State.