Andrew Moore, member of the Centre in Laser-based Production Processes, has been awarded an EPSRC grant as part of a further £2.7 million investment into the Manufacturing with Light research programme. The project will investigate 'Photoelasticity for sub-surface stress measurements in ceramic coating systems' in partnership with Rolls-Royce and Renishaw Plc.
Project EP/N018249/1 deals with sub-surface stress measurements in ceramic thermal barrier coatings that are used in modern jet engines. These ceramic coatings enable the temperature of the burning gases in the engine to exceed (safely!) the melting point of the metal components underneath. High operating temperatures are crucial to the air transport industry: an increase in temperature directly improves the engine efficiency, which in turn reduces fuel consumption and CO2 and NOx emissions. However, current technology is incapable of reliably inspecting the quality of these ceramic coatings during their manufacture, which means that the coated components must be replaced far more frequently than is necessary and severely hinders the design of new coatings for even higher operating temperatures in the future.
Heriot-Watt is helping to solve this problem by developing technology that measures the stresses produced in the ceramic coatings during their manufacture. These measurements are made using terahertz radiation to see through the materials and measure small changes in refractive index that can be linked directly to internal stresses. These new techniques will enable in-process control during manufacture, and in-service quality assurance, for a range of materials where this is not currently available. The project is supported by Rolls-Royce, the leading UK manufacturer of jet engines, and by Renishaw, a leading UK manufacturer of both metrology instruments and ceramic components for healthcare applications.
More details about the project can be found on EPSRC's web grant record