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Many people who operate or otherwise work with gas turbines (GTs) are in awe about the extraordinarily harsh environment in which compressor and turbine blades operate. Yet these blades prove to be incredibly sturdy and reliable. Just to put things in perspective: A single turbine blade, only a few inches in height and width, mounted in a 30,000 hp GT produces about 500 hp of power. It achieves that while operating at a pressure that’s the equivalent to being 700 ft underwater at the temperature of hot molten lava while running at speeds of more than 10,000 rpm. And we expect these blades to survive this ordeal for tens of thousands of operating hours. Design trial and error methods are a thing of the past. Combining computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer calculations allows for the precise determination of local blade pressures and temperatures. From this, stress levels, vibration modes and vibration frequencies can be predicted precisely. Moreover, it is sometimes possible to measure the blade temperatures, or blade vibrations and stresses in the running engines. New and exciting methods have been developed to accomplish this, like measuring blade surface temperatures with irradiated silicon carbide crystals, or non-intrusive stress measurement ...
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