The U.S. Department of Energy has invested nearly $1 million in The University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Mechanical Engineering to develop technologies for “smart parts” with embedded sensors for high-efficiency and emission-free fossil energy systems using additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.
The sensors will be designed, fabricated and evaluated with the ultimate goal of developing a new paradigm of embedded sensing technologies that is integrated in the power generation turbine components early on in the design process. Turbines require a host of sensors for efficient and safe operations. UTEP’s “smart part” technologies will allow real time and wireless sensing of turbine performance and health.
“Current turbine sensors have extremely low durability and reliability because of the extreme environments they are put in,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., professor and chair of mechanical engineering. “Our innovative sensor fabrication and integration technologies will allow more robust measurement and monitoring capabilities at much lower cost.”
Yirong Lin, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering and principal investigator of the project, said the sensors will be made out of ceramics and then 3-D-printed in the University’s W.M. Keck Center for 3-D Innovation.
“Ceramics are ideal for high temperatures, which is why we expect dramatic improvement of reliability,” he said.
The project is a joint effort between UTEP’s Keck Center, a state-of-the-art advanced additive manufacturing research facility, and the Center for Space Exploration Technology Research (cSETR), a NASA University Research Center with frontier research capabilities in advanced propulsion and energy engineering.
“We in the Keck Center are very excited about our collaboration to leverage our additive manufacturing technology for the fabrication of the advanced sensors conceived and developed by cSETR,” said Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., director of the Keck Center. “Ultimately, the energy industry will stand to dramatically benefit from the introduction of these sensors in terms of efficiencies of large gas turbines.”
The three-year grant is in accordance with the DOE’s strategic goal of enabling “smart part” fabrication in the United States.