Gas turbine engines for military/commercial fixed-wing and rotary wing aircraft use thermal barrier coatings in the high-temperature sections of the engine for improved efficiency and power. The desire to further make improvements in gas turbine engine efficiency and high power-density is driving the research and development of thermal barrier coatings with the goal of improving their tolerance to fine foreign particulates that may be contained in the intake air. Both commercial and military aircraft engines often are required to operate over sandy regions such as in the middle-east nations, as well as over volcanic zones. For rotorcraft gas turbine engines, the sand ingestion is adverse during take-off, hovering near ground, and landing conditions. Although most of the rotorcraft gas turbine engines are fitted with inlet particle separators, they are not 100% efficient in filtering fine sand particles of size 75 microns or below. The presence of these fine solid particles in the working fluid medium has an adverse effect on the durability of turbine blade thermal barrier coatings and overall performance of the engine. Typical turbine blade damage includes blade coating wear, sand glazing, Calcia-Magnesia-Alumina-Silicate (CMAS) attack, oxidation, and plugged cooling holes, all of which can cause rapid performance deterioration including loss of aircraft. The objective of this research is to understand the fine particle interactions with typical turbine blade ceramic coatings at the microstructure level. Finite-element based microstructure modeling and analysis has been performed to investigate particle-surface interactions, and restitution characteristics. Experimentally, a set of tailored thermal barrier coatings and surface treatments were down-selected through hot burner rig tests and then applied to first stage nozzle vanes of the gas generator turbine of a typical rotorcraft gas turbine engine. Laser Doppler velocity measurements were performed during hot burner rig testing to determine sand particle incoming velocities and their rebound characteristics upon impact on coated material targets. Further, engine sand ingestion tests were carried out to test the CMAS tolerance of the coated nozzle vanes. The findings from this on-going collaborative research to develop the next-gen sand tolerant coatings for turbine blades are presented in this paper.

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