April 27, 2011

Normally, we think of modes of transportation, like automobiles and airplanes, as moving at a particular speed through the air, which remains still. However, the opposite effect, a stationary object amid moving air, is a heavily studied phenomenon. A wind tunnel is an aerodynamic research tool used to study the effects of air on stationary objects.

Taking advantage of the wind tunnel under construction at LSU’s Engineering Annex building, senior Christopher Foreman and his team are constructing a test section of the wind tunnel for their mechanical engineering (ME) Capstone Design project.

The ME students are designing and building turbine blades in order to measure the effects of temperature and velocity on the blades’ surface. The blades must be capable of a phenomenon known as film cooling. Foreman compares film cooling to the processes at work in an air hockey table.

“You have air that’s blown out of small holes on the table, and the hockey puck floats,” said Foreman, a native of Rayne, La. “It forms a really small layer of air, which acts as a good insulator.”

Similarly, film cooling creates a protective layer between hot combustion gases and the surface of the turbine blades. The goal is to keep the surface temperature as low as possible in order to increase the blade’s durability. The protective cooling layer increases the blades’ lifespan and, in turn, the turbine’s efficiency.    

Sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the project poses several benefits to improving combustor flows. Within a turbine, fluctuating temperatures and velocities create unsteady flows. The group hopes their project will provide a better understanding of the effects of unsteady flows on film cooling. This could lead to better film cooling designs and more efficient, energy-producing gas turbines.

The senior ME students are now busy constructing the turbine blades and the accompanying measurement systems for their project. But, they are most excited about one thing: turning it on for the first time.

Group members include the following senior, mechanical engineering students: Christopher Foreman, Robert Giglio (Baton Rouge, La.) and Shiloh Meyers (Baton Rouge, La.). 

The Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) will host the ME 4202 Capstone Design annual seminar presentation May 4-5 in the Frank Walk Design Presentation Room, 140 ELAB. ME undergraduates worked throughout two semesters on a design project of their choice. Projects are judged by a design panel consisting of local industry leaders and LSU faculty and alumni.

All ME faculty members, project sponsors, faculty advisors, alumni, graduate students, ME undergraduates and the general public are invited to this event each year. To obtain information for next year’s event, submit an area for research, or to become a judge or sponsor, please contact Larry Dufour at ldufour@lsu.edu or Dimitris Nikitopoulos at medimi@lsu.edu. 


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