Active control of fluid flows in gas turbines

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


The global appetite for power and for efficient transportation can only increase as nations industrialise and the world's population grows. This application is about making engines more efficient using game changing technology that enables sophisticated computer control of engine thermodynamic cycles. This research will address the technological building blocks required for computer controlled manipulation of power generating fluid flows.

The technical difficulties of modulating engine flows can be immense but the prize for control substantial. For example, the leakage flows at the tip of a gas turbine blade and the cooling airflows in a combustion chamber contribute significantly to engine fuel burn and emissions respectively. Many such engine flows are high speed, high pressures (20bar+) and at high temperatures (500 degC+) and reside in difficult to access parts of the engine. This means that conventional valves and actuators that have moving parts are not viable due to inadequate life and slow response time.
We shall consider here a novel concept of a valve that has no moving parts and works at the pressures and temperatures normally found in gas turbines or diesel engines. The Electro-fluidic-transistor-valves to be studied in this research use small plasma discharges in combination with fundamental fluidic effects to inject or switch off jets of air when commanded. One of the goals in this research is to understand the fundamental parameters that influence the operation and performance of such devices. How fast can such devices be made to operate? And how can control engineering be used to directly manipulate on the micro scale the flow past the turbine blade tip that is the single biggest contributor aero-engine inefficiency?
To answer these questions, this ambitious proposal uses an integrated approach that will research the science of the plasma switched fluidic valves, identify the key control laws and architectures for high bandwidth flow control and then demonstrate the concept experimentally in a challenging high speed turbine application. This will require close research collaboration between control engineers and thermo-fluid specialists, a direction well aligned with EPSRC strategy for both Control Engineering and Aerodynamics disciplines. The applicants are convinced that this multi-channel approach is the best way to propel this potentially disruptive technology into CO2 saving applications.

Planned Impact

The proposed research will make state-of-the-art advances in the field of active flow control which is now one of the key factors in driving future improvements in reducing fuel consumption in transport systems. The benefits of this research will be realised through a number of pathways to ensure greatest overarching impact across diverse set of areas and beneficiaries. The pathways will be managed by Prof. Ireland together with Rolls-Royce as the industrial partner on this grant. The main elements of the pathways are
1. Industrial impact
a. Dr Bacic will ensure that the outcomes of the research are exploited at the earliest opportunity in Rolls-Royce.
b. All investigators will engage in yearly focussed meetings with technical specialists from automotive industry

2. Academic communications: The research results will be presented at leading international conferences and high-impact scientific journals

3. Public events
a. Maintain project website to disseminate results
b. Organise an International Symposium on 'Advanced active flow control for future aerospace, automotive and energy applications'

4. Environment: The research will be utilised by the industrial partner in the first instance to improve engine fuel burn and therefore reduced CO2 emissions globally.

5. Skills & Training:
a. Project will train to 2 PhD students and 2 PDRAs to acquire advanced control, fluid dynamics, instrumentation and experimental skillsets. These skillsets are widely used across a range of industries and academia
b. Final year MEng projects will be suggested to support the research
The global impact of research will be achieved through involvement with the industrial partner (Rolls-Royce), global automotive industry engagement (Jaguar Land Rover, Formula 1 teams), and by dissemination of research through international conferences and journals.


10 25 50
Description Rolls-Royce, our industrial partner on the grant has taken our pioneering research on plasma fluidic device from this grant and is funding development of an engine scale prototype this year (to the tune of £300k) with the design work being carried out by our research team in collaboration with Sheffield university and Rolls-Royce UK as well as Rolls Royce Deutschland. This includes funding high pressure rig test at Oxford to support TRL4 review. Subject to programme timescales Rolls-Royce has also offered the opportunity to test the prototype on the forthcoming engine demonstrator before 2020.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Impact Types Economic

Description ICORE
Amount £650,000 (GBP)
Organisation Rolls Royce Group Plc 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 09/2019
Description PIPS
Amount £8,910,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 113107 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 03/2020
Description Programme Grant
Amount £6,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P000878/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 07/2021
Description Fluidic systems research 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Colleagues at Sheffield, who are experts in fluidics with many years of experience in the nuclear and process industries, are partnering this research. They have had significant input to the research achieved in the first two quarters.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Geoff Priestman and Dr John Tippetts have advised on design of high response rate fluidic systems that have the potential for application for tip leakage control in axial flow turbines. They have attended more than one meeting - including a face to face meeting at Oxford, and several conference calls.
Impact The interaction has led to a rapid development in the fluidic amplifier. Our CFD studies have uncovered novel transient behaviour of the device when the plasma strikes. Fundamental behaviour of the amplifier has been characterised, with LES studies used to understand flow dynamics. This likely to be very significant. Two AIAA conference papers have been submitted for consideration in this years conferences, and the first of many journal submissions is imminent.
Start Year 2013
Description High profile from Professor Tom Corke from Notre Dame University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Prof Corke is a world leader in plasma actuation. He gave an overview of his 70m USD research activity in the USA at an Osney Seminar RR was in attendance. Dr Bacic discussed future collaboration.

Outline plans for future collaborative research as a result of this EPSRC grant
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
Description Invited VKI Lecture on: Challenges and Applications of Flow Control in Turbomachinery 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited VKI Lecture on: Challenges and Applications of Flow Control in Turbomachinery.Participants were postgraduate students and top international research leaders in the field(who gave other invited lectures on this event) - Lou Cattafesta, Mo Samimy, Jeffrey Bons,...
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Invited VKI Lecture on: Plasma and Piezo Fluidic devices for active flow control in turbomachinery 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited lecture on Active flow control with primary audience being postgraduate students and top research leaders in the field (who were the other invited lecturers).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Visit to Boeing (Seattle) US 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A strictly-private meeting between Rolls-Royce and Boeing to brief on the status of a number of technologies that Rolls-Royce is working on. This included briefing on the research outputs of this grant by Marko Bacic and Rolls-Royce's vision for the future of this activity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016