Innovative surface treatment and coatings for thermal power plant components

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


The UK was the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. This ambitious target towards zero net emissions, or "carbon neutrality", will be pursued in this 30 years timespan through promoting reforestation, carbon capture and storage, but also by transitioning to renewable energy while enhancing current power plants efficiency.

The transition towards renewable energy leads an overall lower demand to existing power plants, but at the same time this demand is concentrated within shorter and intermitted time frames, due to the intermittent nature of for instance solar and wind energy supply. Therefore, power plants which were designed to operate continuously are being demanded increased flexibility in intermittent operation, posing some parts to unexpectedly frequent thermal cycling leading to parts failure.

The goal of this PhD project is to improve the performance and life span of components used in power plants by means of surface treatment and coatings to understand the failure mechanisms induced by thermal cycling, corrosion and wear. This project will focus on developing and testing a range of suitable surface treatments by advanced coating deposition through a novel suspension plasma spray for high temperature components including valves, heat exchangers and boiler parts.

The project will involve the commissioning of testing rigs, requiring design, assembling and computer controlling of the necessary components. The test rig will allow us to understand coating performance under real service operating conditions as informed by BF2RA industrial partners. Material characterisation will include advanced techniques as high-resolution scanning and transmission electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy.

Planned Impact

The proposed Centre will benefit the following groups

1. Students - develop their professional skills, a broad technical and societal knowledge of the sector and a wider appreciation of the role decarbonised fuel systems will play in the UK and internationally. They will develop a strong network of peers who they can draw on in their professional careers. We will continue to offer our training to other Research Council PhD students and cross-fertilise our training with that offered under other CDT programmes, and similar initiatives where that develops mutual benefit. We will further enhance this offering by encouraging industrialists to undertake some of our training as Professional Development ensuring a broadening of the training cohort beyond academe. Students will be very employable due to their knowledge, skills and broad industrial understanding.
2. Industrial partners - Companies identify research priorities that underpin their long-term business goals and can access state of the art facilities within the HEIs involved to support that research. They do not need to pre-define the scope of their work at the outset, so that the Centre can remain responsive to their developing research needs. They may develop new products, services or models and have access to a potential employee cohort, with an advanced skill base. We have already established a track record in our predecessor CDTs, with graduates now acting as research managers and project supervisors within industry
3. Academic partners - accelerating research within the Energy research community in each HEI. We will develop the next generation of researchers and research leaders with a broader perspective than traditional PhD research and create a bedrock of research expertise within each HEI, developing supervisory skills across a broad range of topics and faculties and supporting HEIs' goals of high quality publications leading to research impacts and an informed group of educators within each HEI. .
4. Government and regulators - we will liaise with national and regional regulators and policy makers. We will conduct research directly aligned with the Government's Clean Growth Strategy, Mission Innovation and with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund's theme Prosper from the Energy Revolution, to help meet emission, energy security and affordability targets and we will seek to inform developing energy policy through new findings and impartial scientific advice. We will help to provide the skills base and future innovators to enable growth in the decarbonised energy sector.
5. Wider society and the publics - developing technologies to reduce carbon emissions and reduce the cost of a transition to a low carbon economy. Need to ascertain the publics' views on the proposed new technologies to ensure we are aligned with their views and that there will be general acceptance of the new technologies. Public engagement will be a two-way conversation where researchers will listen to the views of different publics, acknowledging that there are many publics and not just one uniform group. We will actively engage with public from including schools, our local communities and the 'interested' public, seeking to be honest providers of unbiased technical information in a way that is correct yet accessible.


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