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New High-Temperature Seal System

Increased Efficiency
of Gas Turbines
DIETER SPORER With increasing fuel prices and significant pressure
ARNO REFKE to reduce emissions, the efficient use of fuels in gas
MARIAN DRATWINSKI turbines is gaining ever more attention. Abradable
MITCH DORFMAN seals in gas turbine compressors have contributed to
SULZER METCO improved efficiencies for quite some time now. To
IACOPO GIOVANNETTI further enhance efficiency, current efforts focus on
MASSIMO GIANNOZZI the seals in one of the hottest sections of the
MANUELE BIGI engine, the first turbine stage. Sulzer Metco and GE
GE OIL&GAS have designed and tested a new high-pressure
turbine abradable seal system in the framework of a
European consortium project led by GE Oil&Gas. In
the scope of this project, Sulzer Metco had
developed a novel ceramic coating for application by
atmospheric plasma spraying (APS). An engine test
verified performance and economic advantages of
the new seal system. The measured improvements in
engine performance exceed the expected gains as
predicted by model calculations.


Efficiency improvements in 1 Casing ring
gas turbine engines can be 2 Shroud seal segment
3 Abradable coating
achieved by minimizing the clear- 4 Nozzle guide vane

ance between stationary and rotat- 5 HPT blade (bucket) 2

ing parts. Various techniques to 3

manage clearances in jet engines

have been introduced since the
4 5
1960s with thermal spraying of
abradable coatings representing
a relatively simple, reliable, and
cost-effective clearance-control 1 The seal system of a gas turbine has a significant influence on
method. Clearance-control coat- its overall efficiency. In the scope of a European research project,
ings are broadly accepted in com- Sulzer Metco has developed a new sealing material for the hot
high-pressure turbine (HPT) stage.
pressors of gas turbines. In the re-
cent past, improving the much
hotter turbine stages has gained a (pinch point) is reached at steady- culatory area where the stress ex-
lot of attention. The extreme gas state operating conditions, with ceeds the yield strength of the
temperatures encountered on different clearances for the cases shroud base material. Hence, fur-
these stages challenge the design with and without abradable seals ther development focused on zir-
and durability of seals. On the oth- (Fig. 2). With abradable seals, more conia-based materials.
er hand, reducing parasitic tip than 90% reduction of the mini- The seal system was subsequently
leakage flows in this area is most mum hot clearance is envisaged. laid out to have a top coat of
rewarding from the point of view Using computational fluid dynam- 1 mm thickness deposited over
of efficiency gain. Again, thermal ics (CFD), the performance bene- a 0.15 mm MCrAlY bond coat.
spraying turns out to be a very ef- fits from this reduced gap were Sulzer Metco Amdry 962, a hot-gas
fective tool to achieve this goal. calculated for the high-pressure oxidation resistant Ni-22Cr-10Al-
turbine stage and the overall en- 1Y alloy, was selected as the bond-
Performance Gains Predicted gine. The simulations predicted an coat material. Atmospheric plasma
Through the use of abradable increase in stage efficiency by ap- spraying (APS) using the Sulzer
seals, the operating, or hot, clear- proximately 3 percentage points Metco 9 MB gun was chosen as the
ances in a turbine stage can be re- and an improvement in overall en- process to deposit bond and top
duced by a simple effect: the tur- gine efficiency by about 1 percent- coat (see box p. 6) (Fig. 3).
bine blades are allowed to cut into age point. Similar numbers were
the coated stator part while dam- calculated for the enhancements in Thermal-Shock Resistance
age to the blade tip remains mini- stage and engine power output. The basic requirements for the ce-
mal. However, a proper design of ramic abradable top coat are ther-
the initial, or cold, clearance needs Ceramic Coatings Reduce mal shock resistance, abradability,
to be performed to assure optimal Metal Temperature and erosion resistance. Thermal
air gaps under all engine operat- FE simulations comparing a dense shock resistance of candidate ma-
ing conditions. To achieve this, the MCrAlY-type abradable coating
100 2 Clearance trends
evolution of the stage clearance with a standard zirconia-based Without abradable
Normalized clearance (%)

for the HPT stage of

must be calculated. Using finite el- abradable revealed the following: 80 With abradable
the gas turbine con-
ement (FE) methods, a thermal the ceramic abradable reduces the sidered. Cold start
and mechanical analysis was per- maximum metal temperature of and hot restart.
formed for the design of the high the shroud segment by 20% and 40

pressure stage of the engine mod- the thermally induced radial dis- 20
el considered (Fig. 1). The turbine placements by 34%. Further, the
stage shows a monotonic clearance application of a ceramic, zirconia- 0 4000 16 000 20 000

trend: the minimum clearance based abradable decreases the cal- Time (s)


Plasma Spray Technology
Plasma spraying can be carried
out under atmospheric and
vacuum or low-pressure condi-
tions. It is perhaps the most
flexible of all of thermal spray
processes as it can develop suf-
Zirconia ceramic top coat (1000 m) ficient energy to melt any ma-
terial. Since it uses powder as
coating feedstock, the number
Amdry 962 bond coat (150 m) of possible coating materials is
Shroud substrate almost unlimited. A high-fre-
quency arc is ignited between
3 Sulzer 9 MB spray gun selected to deposit the seal system, seal design, and bond coat material. the nozzle serving as an anode
and a cathode. Process gases
(generally mixtures of argon,
nitrogen, hydrogen, and heli-
terials was evaluated at GE able powder consisting of dyspro- um) flowing between the elec-
Oil&Gas in a furnace cycle test sium-oxide (Dy2O3) stabilized zir- trodes are ionized and become
(FCT) rig at a peak temperature of conia with additions of a polyester a plume of hot plasma with a
1150 C (Fig. 4). The goal of the de- compound, show a distinct advan- temperature between 6600 C
velopment was to provide an tage in cyclic life compared with and 16 600 C (12 000 F and
abradable top coat with signifi- baseline yttria-stabilized zirconia 30 000 F), exceeding that of the
cantly improved thermal-shock (YSZ) materials (Fig. 5). This ad- surface of the sun. When the
life when applied as a relatively vantage is used to provide the nec- coating material is injected into
thick coating as required by the ap- essary coating thickness of the the gas plume, it is melted and
plication in an abradable system. abradable without compromising propelled towards the sub-
Coatings made from Durabrade its cyclic life. strate, or material to be coated.
2192, a novel Sulzer Metco abrad- The flow of the process
Untipped Blades Save Cost gases and the current applied
Typically, the use of ceramic seals to the cathode control the
requires a hard tipping of the amount of energy produced by
4 Furnace used
Temperature (C)

Heat Dwell Cool

to qualify ceramic 1150 blade. Standard tipping systems the process. Since both can be
abradables at GE include cubic boron nitride (cBN) regulated accurately, repeat-
Oil&Gas and the 50 or silicon carbide (SiC). The tip- able and predictable coating re-
thermal-shock ping of blades is expensive, and a sults can be obtained. In addi-
10 45 5
cycle applied. Time (min) system that can be cut by untreat- tion, point and angle at which
ed, bare-metal blades provides a the material is injected into the
significant economic advantage to plume and the distance of the
the end user. On the abradable test gun to the target component
rig of Sulzer Innotec, the Sulzer ex- can also be controlled. These
perts performed several series of features provide a high degree
abradability tests (see STR 2/2007, of flexibility in the develop-
p. 23). This component validation ment of appropriate spray
rig has the capability to test the parameters for materials with
cutting behavior of ceramics at ex- a very large range of melting
tremely high temperatures. Tests temperatures.
were performed at 1100 C coating


Durabrade 2192 Performance Higher
standard YSZ materials
Than Predicted
FCT Cycles to Failure


300 After the laboratory test phase, the

Amdry 962/Durabrade 2192 seal
system was validated in an actual
gas turbine (Fig. 7). Sulzer Metco
0 10 20 30 40 50
coated shroud seal segments with
Coating Porosity (%) the selected seal system in accor-
5 Thermal-shock life of Durabrade dance with a drafted GE Oil&Gas
2192 coatings compared with that of coating specification based on the 7 Seal assembly for a high-
standard YSZ coatings (all coatings results of the laboratory test car- pressure turbine with shroud
tested were 1 mm thick). seal segments carrying the
ried out by Sulzer Innotec.
new Amdry 962/Durabrade
Testing was performed over 100
2192 seal system.
engine cycles, with the redesigned
temperature with cBN-tipped and high-pressure turbine seal system
untreated blades. Essentially, good being the only modification com- and remained within acceptance
abradability behavior was as- pared with the baseline engine. limits.
sessed for a number of coatings A post-test evaluation of the seal In terms of engine performance, an
when hard-tipped blades were system showed that there was no increase of 1.8 percentage points
used. However, only the coating loss, confirming the ther- in power output and of 1.3 per-
Durabrade 2192 coating sprayed mal-shock results from the labora- centage points in overall engine ef-
to a certain porosity level showed tory. The good surface stability ob- ficiency was assessed, values
the necessary abradability to be served indicates a satisfactory ero- slightly higher than predicted by
cut by untipped blades while sion resistance of the ceramic top the model simulations.
maintaining satisfactory erosion coat. The wear measured on the This joint project with GE is one
resistance (Fig. 6). untipped turbine blades was small example of Sulzer Metcos initia-
tive to develop new solutions in
close cooperation with users of
6 Abradability test results at 1100 C. Left: Sulzer Metco 2460 against
Sulzer technology. With the per-
cBN-tipped blades. Center: Durabrade 2192 against cBN-tipped blades.
Right: Durabrade 2192 against untipped blades. formance improvements achieved,
the seal system developed pro-
Tip speed 410 m/s Tip speed 410 m/s Tip speed 410 m/s
Incursion rate 5 m/s Incursion rate 5 m/s Incursion rate 5 m/s vides significant economical and
20 mm
environmental advantages to
manufacturers and users of gas

Work as presented here was in part sponsored by the European Com-
mission (EC) under an EESD FP5 project (acronym: ABRANEW;
project no. NNE5-2001-411). The support received from the EC to
1 mm
carry out the work is gratefully appreciated.
Blade wear +1.2% Blade wear 3.9% Blade wear +2.8%

Tip speed 410 m/s Tip speed 410 m/s Tip speed 410 m/s
Incursion rate 500 m/s Incursion rate 500 m/s Incursion rate 500 m/s Contact
Sulzer Metco (Canada) Inc.
Dieter Sporer
Wies 21 a
6677 Schattwald
Phone +43 5675 43 272
Fax +43 5675 43 272
Blade wear +1.7% Blade wear +3.6% Blade wear +26.0%