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Additive manufacturing exploited to lightweight and internally cool Radial turbine wheel

In collaboration with the IAAPS team, HiETA Technologies designed, manufactured and physically tested a lightweight and internally cooled Radial turbine wheel.

3D image of a Radial turbine wheel
Use of additive manufacturing to design and test a lightweight and internally cooled Radial turbine wheel

As specialists in world class thermal engineering technology, inspired and enabled by Additive Manufacturing, HiETA have collaborated with the University of Bath on the design, manufacture and physical test of a lightweight and internally cooled Radial turbine wheel, exploiting the design freedoms of Additive Manufacturing (AM). The objective of the project was to prove that operation in turbine inlet temperatures of 1200°C was possible by an AM internally cooled Radial turbine wheel. By increasing the turbine inlet temperatures to 1200°C the thermal efficiency of the turbine stage is drastically increased, and thus the overall efficiency of the engine system can be increased. Actively cooling the turbine wheel increases the component life and by light-weighting the wheel, inertia is reduced and so spool up times are quicker, as well as reducing wear on bearings.

The technology is applicable to Micro Gas Turbine systems where system efficiencies could be drastically increased by running the system hotter, as well as the automotive industry where lowering the inertia is advantageous. To achieve the objective, two approaches were combined. HiETA developed the capability to process a high-temperature resillient Nickel Super Alloy material CM247LC. Additionally, AM was exploited to create a novel design combining the required internal structure of the wheel with a targeted internal cooling method. Taking the standard oil cooled turbocharger as a baseline to reference against, the AM cooled wheel was tested back to back with the solid wheel, at the same design point using the same housings and bearings.

Topology optimisation was used to guide the required structural requirements, whilst a full conjugate heat transfer CFD model was created to model the effect of the cooling on the wheel. The CFD model was a full representation of the test set up, with compressor, bearings, turbine side all included. The output from this model was then validated via physical test. Due to limitations on the hot gas stand, it was not possible to test at 1200°C inlet temperatures, and so the wheels were coated with thermal history paint, which records the highest metal temperatures seen by the wheel. Compared to the solid wheel baseline, the cooled wheel showed an LE temperature reduction of 60°C, a TE reduction of 100°C and mid-blade reduction of 90-100°C. The cooled wheel was 22% lighter than the solid baseline. The results from the test correlated closely to the CFD results, validating the accuracy of the model. CFD was then used to predict the temperature reduction at 1200°C turbine inlet temperature. At this condition, it is expected that temperature reductions of 200°C at LE, 250°C at TE and 180-200°C at the mid-blade would be presented.

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Contact IAAPS Chief Engineer, Rob Oliver to discuss your project requirements