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AI-Inspired Project Advances Condition-Based Maintenance and Prediction for Turbines
Gas Turbine

An NETL-sponsored project is leveraging artificial intelligence in a manner that will lead to more efficient, long-lasting and reliable gas turbines to meet America’s growing energy needs.

As advanced energy systems move toward higher temperatures to boost efficiency and reduce emissions, monitoring their performance under such harsh conditions becomes a challenge. Existing monitoring tools for gas turbines are costly, time-consuming and complicated, involving wires and risks for damage.

With funding and guidance from NETL, North Carolina-based Siemens Corp. and its partners are developing smart sensor systems that provide real-time monitoring of gas turbine components, thereby enabling condition-based maintenance and prediction of each component’s remaining useful life.

Siemens is achieving this by incorporating advanced sensors directly onto gas turbine blades that feature an ultra-high-temperature wireless monitoring and data transfer capability that provides accurate, real-time information up to 1,400 degrees Celsius. In addition to direct measurement of component conditions, the minimally invasive system will evaluate engine performance to optimize process operations and facilitate component lifespan predictions using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science focused on the creation of software-based models that can be used in tangible ways to increase accuracy and efficiency, reduce human errors and reduce costs. Machine learning is the confluence of data collection facilitated by novel sensors and the learning of representative models of normal equipment behavior. This assures continued performance, safety, security and availability of assets through early detection of incipient faults and their isolation and identification.

“NETL is pursuing a wide range of artificial intelligence- and machine learning-focused innovations with the potential to transform energy technologies around the world. We’re leveraging these high-performance computing tools to quickly analyze data and develop powerful insights that address some of our most complex energy challenges,” NETL Director Brian J. Anderson, Ph.D., said. “Our collaboration with Siemens to develop operations-based assessment tools for gas turbines demonstrates one of many useful applications for data analytics and artificial intelligence within power plants.”  

To date, Siemens’ team has developed spray-on thermocouples that demonstrate excellent sensor functionality and repeatability, with long-term and high-temperature testing ongoing. The project team is also exploring the most effective options for integrated circuit designs and durable implementation strategies. The $4.7 million project, funded through NETL’s Crosscutting Research Program, continues through August 2020. 

Siemens’ work supports broader efforts by NETL and its partners to achieve higher operating temperatures within advanced energy systems — in this case by ensuring a longer life, reduced downtime and greater efficiency. These gains will ultimately provide cleaner, more affordable and more reliable energy for Americans using the nation’s abundant domestic resources.