Improved airfoil production enhances efficiency

Siemens Energy has recently opened a facility in Charlottesville, Virginia for the innovative commercial production of airfoil ceramic cores for gas turbine blades and vanes using the TOMO technology, initially developed by Mikro Systems, Inc. The advancements are expected to improve the cooling capability of gas turbine blading, thus enabling higher levels of engine performance and efficiency for future Siemens Gas Turbines. This technology is available to Siemens as a part of the Technology License agreement with Mikro Systems.

With support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Mikro Systems was funded via Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. Mikro Systems and Siemens Energy partnered to develop the application of its patented Tomo-Lithographic Molding (TOMO) manufacturing technology to a range of gas turbine components.

Through retrofitting, the new technology can also be applied for improving the efficiency of power plants already in operation.

Gas turbines, which are used to produce power for industrial, utility, and aerospace applications, consist sequentially of compressor, combustor, and turbine sections. Incoming air is compressed to a high pressure state in the compressor section, and heated to high temperature via the combustion of fuel in the combustor section. The high-temperature, high-pressure gas is then expanded through a series of rotor-mounted airfoils in the turbine section, converting the gas' energy into mechanical work. Therefore, improved airfoil designs which can tolerate higher gas temperatures and use less cooling air, result in the highest level of efficiency in natural gas turbine energy production.