MORGANTOWN, WV - High-strength materials will be one
of the critical requirements for the high-tech power plants of the future,
so the U.S. Department of Energy will use the third and final round of
its current Vision 21 competition to concentrate on two projects that
will help improve the strength and durability of tomorrow's metals.
Vision 21 is an Energy Department research and development effort that
looks to the day when energy plants - including those that use coal -
would be practically emission free. In two competitions to date, the department
has selected a wide array of advanced technologies that ultimately would
form the "building blocks" for this ultra-clean futuristic power
Now, the department has selected proposals from Texas A&M University,
College Station, TX, and the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA,
to study ways to improve the materials in a key section of the future
plant -- the turbine.
The two universities will focus on making the blades of Vision 21 turbines
capable of withstanding the high operating temperatures needed to achieve
the superior performance levels envisioned for these new plants.
Future Vision 21 plants will be designed to run on a variety of fuels
-- clean natural gas as well as fuels with more impurities, such as coal
or possibly a combination of feedstocks such as biomass, municipal wastes,
or petroleum coke.
To boost overall fuel-to-energy efficiencies, a Vision 21 plant would
likely convert these fuels into gaseous form that would be fired in high-temperature,
high-efficiency gas turbines. The blades must be made strong and durable
enough to withstand the harsh, often corrosive effects of the hot gases.
When impurities are present in the high-velocity gases, the technical
challenge of protecting the turbine blades is even greater.
The Texas A&M Project
Texas A&M researchers will develop a model that describes
the way single-crystal turbine blades respond to high temperatures. An
especially important part of the project will be to observe how defects
form at high temperatures and move through the structural lattices of
the turbine blades.
The university researchers will be joined in the 3-year project by engineers
from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, and GE Research,
Niskayuna, NY. The Energy Department will provide nearly $354,000 of the
project's $443,000 total cost. The rest will come from the private sector
The University of Pittsburgh Project
The University of Pittsburgh will work on improving the durability
of turbine components with a goal of making them strong enough to withstand
the effects of impurities that may be present in the high temperature
gases. Pitt researchers will apply a dense overlay of aluminum oxide on
the surface of turbine blades to create a corrosion-resistant coating.
The Energy Department's share of the $504,000 project, also planned to
run over three years, will be approximately $333,000, with the remainder
contributed by the University and its research partners.
A Pollution-Free Power Future
Vision 21 is one of the highest priorities in the Energy Department's
longer-range fossil fuel power technology program. By 2015, if the pace
of development can be sustained, the department expects to have the technical
foundation in place for a new fleet of energy plants that would emit virtually
no pollution. Combined with new technologies to capture and store carbon
dioxide, a Vision 21 plant would also reduce, or even eliminate, the problem
of greenhouse gas releases from coal and other fossil fuel power plants.
In its initial competition, where the first "modules" of a
Vision 21 plant are taking shape, the Energy Department is spending $22
million over three years. Ultimately, as the concepts mature, the department
expects that emerging Vision 21 technologies will move into President
Bush's new Clean Coal Power Initiative, an effort that envisions a $2
billion clean coal technology investment over the next 10 years.
The Vision 21 effort is part of the Energy Department's fossil energy
research and development program and is managed by the National Energy