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New, globally unique combustor test facility at DLR

Posted August 16, 2013

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is building up its resources for investigating environment-friendly gas turbines and to this end has teamed up with industrial partners Alstom and Rolls-Royce. On 14 August 2013, the three partners attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a modern, globally unique combustor test facility.

Illustration of the high pressure combustor test facility, HBK5.

Illustration of the high pressure combustor test facility, HBK5.

This signals the start of some 47 million euros of investment in the expansion of the infrastructure at DLR’s Cologne site. The aim of this collaboration is to further increase the efficiency 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 (Hochdruckbrennkammerprüfstand 5; HBK5) will be used to perform combustor tests that contribute towards the development of future generations of aircraft engines and power generation turbines.

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

Norbert Arndt, Director of Engineering Systems and Services at Rolls-Royce, said: “Through the joint investment in the new combustor test facility, Rolls-Royce is continuing its existing excellent collaborative relationship with DLR – which already spans several decades. We will be able to test our combustor technologies with the new test facility under extremely realistic conditions. The primary objective is to further reduce the emissions from engines by using novel combustor concepts and thus to continue providing our customers with the most environment-friendly propulsion systems in the future. For Rolls-Royce, 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 for 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 environment-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, which are being produced and installed in our factories in Mannheim and Bexbach, as well as at other global sites,” said Charles Soothill, Senior Vice President, Technology and Chief Technical Officer at Alstom Thermal Power.

Whether used in an aircraft or a power plant, the combustor is the heart of a gas turbine. It is here that the energy in the fuel is released. To increase the efficiency of future gas turbines, researchers need to further increase combustion temperatures without constraining the operating range or generating unwanted pressure fluctuations in the process. This calls for experimental testing under realistic conditions, long before any new turbines are introduced to the market. In connection with this, 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 megawatts and will be unique in that the researchers will be able to use a wide range of fuels, from conventional ones 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 operations by mid-2014. DLR will operate HBK5 for a period of 30 years through its Combustion Technology Centre (Zentrum für Verbrennungstechnik; ZVT). Alstom and Rolls-Royce will bring their newly developed experimental combustors and burner components to Cologne for testing. DLR already has four combustor test rigs in operation in Cologne, which have been widely used by industry for many years.

One of the declared goals of the collaboration between DLR, as a research centre and the industrial partners, is to convert research results into rapid developments and hence into products available on the market. The innovation edge gained will offer a competitive advantage for industry, which in turn secures jobs in Germany and cements its place as a location for manufacturing. At the same time, the new test facility reflects the increased need for testing to support the development of powerful and at the same time environment-friendly technologies.

Source: DLR

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