Turbomachinery research has been a particular area of specialisation at Durham since the 1960s, led successively by Harry Marsh, David Gregory-Smith, Li He and currently by Simon Hogg, who joined Durham from ALSTOM. Work in recent years includes pioneering development of computational fluid dynamics methods for fluid-structure interaction including codes for flutter prediction in turbine blade rows used widely by industry, and award winning work by Ingram and Gregory-Smith on 3-D turbine blade passage end-wall design in collaboration with Rolls-Royce.
The strategy for the next phase of development is to re-focus turbomachinery research towards power generation turbines, with a specific (though not exclusive) focus on steam turbines. This will complement the other activities within the Durham Energy Institute. Research collaborations are being strengthened and new programmes are being established with the major global steam turbine equipment suppliers.
Current areas of activity are aimed at increasing the efficiency of steam turbine components for cleaner power and the development of next generation turbine designs which can operate more flexibly to meet the variable supply requirements of the future, due to the growth in generation from intermittent renewable sources (e.g. wind turbines) on electricity grids. Current research topics under investigation include:
- 3-D blade design.
- Studies to improve the flow in the diffuser/exhaust hood of low pressure steam turbine cylinders.
- Turbine stage leakage loss reduction through the development of improved aerodynamic sealing technologies and reduced leakage interaction losses.
- Deposition studies on steam turbine blades and the development of techniques to reduce the impact of deposits on turbine performance.
- Instrumentation development for laboratory (Durham has dedicated clean room facilities for micro-instrumentation development) and on-site testing of turbine components.
- Thermodynamic and economic assessment of turbine design changes required to meet the more flexible operating requirements of electricity grids of the future, which have much greater contributions from intermittent renewable sources of energy.
Durham staff have extensive turbomachinery experience running research projects for industry (including Rolls-Royce, Alstom, Siemens and GE) and the majority of Durham staff in this area have previously been directly employed by turbomachinery manufacturers or by operators. Dr Hogg is currently chairman of ASME Power Turbines Generators and Auxiliaries Committee, a member of BSI MCE13 steam turbine codes and standards committee and has also recently been invited to join ASME's Turbine Water Damage Prevention Committee. Dr Ingram is the winner of the 2008 PE Publishing Award for best paper in the Journal of Power and Energy and is a member of the IGTI Turbomachinery Committee. He has also published an introductory text about turbomachinery. Dr Sims-Williams, who has previously undertaken blade design and the development of steam-path design tools for Alstom and Dr Dominy, brings particular expertise in high mach number flows and 3D annular flows (eg: through work with Rolls-Royce).