Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Department of Materials

Research

Power station energy materials

Energy Materials

The energy landscape is changing very rapidly. Key long term strategic challenges have been identified as the need to tackle climate change and ensure a secure, clean and affordable energy supply. Important materials challenges are: reducing time to market and life cycle costs; greater performance in harsher environments and improved life management and reliability.

Loughborough leads the EPSRC Conventional Power Research Consortium in Flexible and Efficient Power Plant: Flex-E-Plant. In order to meet UK Government targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, rapid growth in electricity generation from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is required. One challenge associated with these sources is that their supply is not constant. To ensure a constant power supply, conventional fossil fuelled power plant will need to be used in a flexible manner (i.e. with varying power output to reflect demand). This will pose new materials challenges which will be addressed as part of this project. In parallel, demands on fuel flexibility to reduce emissions, i.e. firing power plant with low-carbon or bio-fuels will create new challenges in plant engineering, monitoring and control, and materials performance.

Improved plant efficiency is key for cutting CO2 emissions. The continuous development of novel, stronger high temperature materials may also enable component replacement to maintain the essential reserve of fossil-fuelled power generation capacity. Finally, the transition to lower COemission involves many economic and environmental considerations, and therefore these are also being addressed through the Flex-E-Plant project.

Primary research interests of the group are:

  • High temperature materials
  • Lifetime extension of existing conventional power plants
  • Regeneration of aged components
  • Study and modelling of degradation mechanisms
  • Lifetime prediction modelling

Flexible and Efficient Power Plant: Flex-E-Plant

Loughborough leads the EPSRC Conventional Power Research Consortium in Flexible and Efficient Power Plant: Flex-E-Plant. In order to meet UK Government targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, rapid growth in electricity generation from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is required. One challenge associated with these sources is that their supply is not constant. To ensure a constant power supply, conventional fossil fuelled power plant will need to be used in a flexible manner (i.e. with varying power output to reflect demand). This will pose new materials challenges which will be addressed as part of this project. In parallel, demands on fuel flexibility to reduce emissions, i.e. firing power plant with low-carbon or bio-fuels will create new challenges in plant engineering, monitoring and control, and materials performance

Rejuventation of ex-service gas turbine alloys

Nickel based superalloys operate under conditions of high temperature and stress within industrial gas turbines used for power generation. At the end of their serviceable life, operators have two options: replace the blades at high financial cost or to refurbish them. Refurbishment is often considered a more financially attractive option but does offer some materials challenges. This projects seeks to understand mechanical and microstructural differences between new and refurbished superalloys with a view to determine optimum heat treatments for refurbishment.

Microstructure of Nickel Based Alloys for Power Plant

In order to meet CO2 reduction targets, the efficiency of coal-fired powerstations must be increased. Current efficiencies are < 50% and increasing this figure requires operating temperatures >700oC. Future steels may provide a partial solution, however, their maximum operating temperature is likely to be < 650oC. One possible solution to this is to use alloys based on nickel which can operate at a higher sustained temperature. In this project, a range of different nickel alloys are being investigated to determine their suitability for use at temperatures > 650°C through the examination their microstructures after various heat treatments and production routes.

Advanced techniques for studying materials in 3D

Microstructures of energy materials contain many features which are critical to their performance which are normally examined using 2D images.  In materials containing features with complex shapes this is often inadequate to obtain a full understanding of material microstructure and feature interaction. In this project, the relationships between stereology (obtaining 3D information from 2D images) and real 3D images are being explored.  In addition, the ability to use 3D data within materials microstructure models is being investigated for prediction of materials’ performance in energy applications.

Additive Manufacturing of Titanium Alloys

To decrease the overall energy use during the production of titanium alloys advanced additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology; selective laser melting (SLM) has been used. However, the typical microstructure and defects in the SLM components hinder the application of SLM Ti-alloys in the aerospace industry. By understanding the laser-material interaction and evolution of the microstructure in relation to its mechanical properties, fully dense components with customisable microstructures can be achieved without further production processes. As no further post-processing treatments are required for desirable mechanical properties, it greatly reduces the production cost and enhances the range of applications of SLM Ti-alloys.

Sustainable recycling methods for titanium alloys

The traditional manufacturing route for titanium alloys involves as high as 80% of material waste in the form of machining chips. Recycling this machining waste can effectively reduce the energy consumption during production. The conventional recycling method for machining chips is to re-melt and cast which requires very high energy input and capital cost. A solid state processing route using severe plastic deformation has been developed to recycle the chips. An Equal Channel Angular Extrusion system with controllable back pressure has been used to successfully produce a bulk alloy from machining waste.

  • Computing facilities. The group has access to High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities on which large simulations can be run on many processors simultaneously. The university’s 1956 processor ‘Hydra’ machine and the 3008 processor HPC-Midlands facility

 

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Featured events

Research Day 2016

25th May 2016
Sir Dennis Rooke Building
Holywell Park
Loughborough University, UK