By adapting existing thermal barrier coatings a sensor coating has been developed to enhance their functionality, such that they not only protect engine components from the high temperature gas, but can now also measure the material temperature accurately and the health of the coating e.g. ageing, erosion and corrosion. The sensing capability is introduced by embedding optically active materials into the thermal barrier coating and by illuminating these coatings with excitation light phosphorescence can be observed. The phosphorescence carries temperature and structural information about the coating. Knowledge of the exact temperature could enable the design of advanced cooling strategies in the most efficient way using a minimum amount of air. The integration of an on-line temperature detection system would enable the full potential of thermal barrier coatings to be realized due to improved accuracy in temperature measurement and early warning of degradation. This in turn will increase fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.

Application: The work carried out included the successful implementation of a sensor coating system on a Rolls-Royce Viper engine. The system consists of three components: industrially-manufactured robust coatings, advanced remote detection optics and improved control and readout software. The majority of coatings were based on yttria stabilized zirconia doped with Dy, although other coatings made of yttrium aluminium garnet were manufactured as well. Coatings were produced on a production line using atmospheric plasma spraying. Parallel tests at Didcot power station revealed the durability of specific coatings in excess of 4,500 effective operating hours. It is expected that the capability of these coatings is in the range of normal maintenance schedules of industrial gas turbines of 24,000hrs or even longer. An optical energy transfer system was designed and developed permitting scanning of coated components and also the detection of phosphorescence on rotating turbine blades (13,000 RPM) at probe-to-target distances of up to 400mm. The online measurement system demonstrated precision (around ±5K) comparable to commercial thermocouples and has shown calibration accuracy of ±4K. Transient temperatures were tracked at maximum at 8Hz which is fast enough to follow a typical power generation gas turbine. Repeatable measurements were successfully taken from the nozzle guide vanes (hot), the combustion chamber (noisy) and the rotating turbine blades (moving) and compared with thermocouple and pyrometer installations.

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