Alstom partners on research for gas turbine systems


The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is building up its resources for investigating environmentally friendly gas turbines and to this end has teamed up with industrial partners Alstom and Rolls-Royce. On August 14, 2013 the three partners attended the ground-breaking ceremony for a modern, globally unique combustor test facility. This signals the start of some 47 million euros of investment in expansion of the infrastructure at DLR’s Cologne site. The aim of this collaboration is to increase further the capability of combustors and at the same time to significantly reduce exhaust gas and noise emissions from gas turbines. Starting in mid-2014, the new high-pressure combustor test facility (HBK5) will be used to perform combustor tests that contribute towards the development of future generations of aero engines and power plant turbines. 

Klaus Hamacher, Vice Chairman of the Executive Board of the DLR, took the opportunity of the ground-breaking ceremony to say, “We are delighted over the collaboration with Alstom and Rolls-Royce. It shows us that, with the developments introduced and our competencies in the operation of industrial-scale facilities, we are on the right track. In this way we are enabling the industry to develop technically superior products that are the key to greater environmental sustainability and economic success.”

Dr. Norbert Arndt, Director Engineering Systems and Services Rolls-Royce, said, “Through the joint investment in the new combustor test facility Rolls-Royce is continuing its existing excellent collaborative relationship with the DLR that already spans several decades. We will be able to test our combustor technologies on the new test facility under extremely realistic conditions. The primary objective is to further reduce the emissions from engines using novel combustor concepts and thus to continue providing our customers with the most environmentally friendly propulsion systems in the future. For Rolls-Royce, the DLR in Cologne is the ideal combustor test site, given its excellent infrastructure and measurement technology and its highly skilled staff. We value our partnership with Alstom over the use of HBK5 and look forward to working together in the future. I am confident that the collaboration will turn out to be a success story for all the partners.”

“Highly efficient combustion technology with low emissions is a key development area for an environmentally friendly future and thus for Alstom and Rolls-Royce. We are delighted to expand our cooperation with DLR. The new test facility will provide results that can be used for our power generation products that are being produced and installed in our factories in Mannheim and Bexbach, as well as at other global sites,” says Charles Soothill, SVP Technology & CTO Alstom Thermal Power.

Whether used in an aircraft or a power plant, the combustor is the heart of the gas turbine. This is where the energy of the fuel is released. To increase the efficiency of future gas turbines, the researchers need to increase further combustion temperatures without constraining the operating range or generating unwanted pressure fluctuations in the process. This calls for experimental tests under realistic conditions, long before any new products are introduced to the market. In this connection alternative fuels from non-fossil raw materials are becoming increasingly important.

HBK5 will give engineers in the Combustion Chamber Test department of the DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology access to a test facility that is globally unique. The test facility will be unusual in having a thermal output of 125 MW and will be unique in that the researchers will be able to use a wide range of fuels, from conventional through to special fuels for aviation, in test operation. Similarly HBK5 will be the best in the world with regard to cooling capability and compressed air supply. 

The facility is due to be handed over to the researchers for test operation by mid 2014. The DLR will operate HBK5 for a period of 30 years through its Combustion Technology Centre (ZVT). Alstom and Rolls-Royce will bring their test combustors and newly developed burner components to Cologne for testing. The DLR already has four combustor test rigs in operation in Cologne that have been extensively used by industry for several years. 

One of the declared goals of the collaboration between the DLR as a research centre, and the industrial partners, is to rapidly convert research results into development designs and hence into products available on the market. The innovation edge so gained signifies a competitive advantage for industry, which in turn secures jobs in the business location of Germany. At the same time the new test rig reflects the increased need for testing to support the development of powerful and at the same time environmentally friendly technologies.

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