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University of Manchester leading £2.7M project to image jet engine emissions; pinning down some of the benefits of novel biofuels

The University of Manchester (UK) is leading the £2.7 million (US$4.24 million) FLITES (Fibre-Laser Imaging of Gas Turbine Exhaust Species) research project, which aims to establish the capability to map several exhaust species from airplanes using tomographic imaging.

Together with academic and commercial partners including the Universities of Southampton and Strathclyde, Rolls-Royce, Shell, Covesion, Fianium and OptoSci, Manchester academics will lead the four-year study. The FLITES team has been awarded £1.8 million by EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), with the companies providing more than £500,000 in support.

The Manchester researchers, based in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, aim to produce the first images of the distribution of chemical species in aero-engine exhaust plumes. They will use novel fiber lasers developed at the University of Southampton and new electronic architectures for spectroscopic measurement from the University of Strathclyde.

FLITES will build upon the expertise of engineers at the University who have already used tomographic imaging to view fuel in automotive engine combustion chambers.

Soot will be imaged via the novel technique of near-IR continuous-wave laser-induced incandescence (CW-LII), in a planar tomographic set-up previously invented by the applicants for the fluorescence case. The high light output power available from the fibre-lasers to be demonstrated in FLITES will transform the logistics and sensitivity of chemical species tomography (CST) with (relatively) large numbers of simultaneous measurement paths through the plume.

Parallel threads of research will be facilitated by using near-IR diode lasers and existing mid-IR sources in single-path systems, which also mitigate against research risks. The techniques developed in the university laboratories will be implemented on a full-scale aero-engine mounted on a testbed at Rolls-Royce.

It is expected that the research project will enhance turbine-related research and development capacity in both academia and industry by opening up access to exhaust plume chemistry. FLITES is intended to underpin a new phase of low-net-carbon development that is underway in aviation, based on bio-derived fuels, and which entails extensive research in turbine engineering, turbine combustion, and fuel product formulation.

There has never been any research using turbine emissions data to determine the condition and behavior of internal engine components, especially the combustor. FLITES will open a new door to penetrate the complex phenomena that dictate the performance and limitations of advanced aero engines, and will help to really pin down the performance benefits of novel biofuels.

—Professor Hugh McCann, project leader


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