There are three essential components to propulsion engines such as those used to power aircraft: a compressor, a combustion chamber, and a turbine. The gas turbines found for example in combined cycle gas power plants function according to the same principle.
Aircraft engines and gas turbines often make use of axial compressors that direct the air through the compressor parallel to the axis. This type of compressor is capable of processing large amounts of air, can create high pressure and is highly robust. This results in a correspondingly high level of research interest in this type of compressor design. Optimization of the compressor is intended to reduce engine fuel consumption.
"The computer simulations we currently use are an enormous aid in the development of new compressors. But simulations are ultimately no substitute for tests involving real machines," explains Prof. Volker Gümmer of the TUM Chair of Turbomachinery and Flight Propulsion. This led to the planning and construction of a testing station for new axial compressors in a long-term partnership with GE Global Research Europe.
High-tech partners on the Garching campus
"The collaboration with GE Global Research is an excellent example of our Industry on Campus initiative," says TUM President Wolfgang A. Herrmann. "Since GE Global Research Europe decided in favor of locating on the Garching campus twelve years ago, the research and development center has been an important collaboration partner for the TUM, in particular in the highly future-oriented research fields of Energy, Mobility, Environment and Health. The campus community generates synergy effects and facilitates uncomplicated and efficient collaboration. Here both fundamental research and application research complement one another ideally."
The new laboratory will support research along the entire spectrum of high-speed compressors such as those used in flight propulsion, power generation and in the petroleum and natural gas industries. An important uniquely qualifying feature is the fact that the simultaneous interaction of several gas compression components can be investigated. At present this multidisciplinary orientation and variability make the project unrivaled anywhere in the world.
Optimization to reduce fuel consumption
"New concepts in gas turbine technology require precise calculation methods that are then validated based on relevant experiments. Fuel-efficiency has a very high priority in the development of new aircraft engines," says Dr. Carlos Härtel, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for GE Europe and Director of the European technology center, GE Global Research Center, in Garching near Munich. "As a leading provider of aircraft engines and gas turbines for power plants we look forward to decisive results which can then be integrated in product development for our turbomachinery on a medium-term basis."
Cooperative cost sharing:
The construction of the axial compressor laboratory was supported by the State of Bavaria with a sum of about six million Euros, while GE contributed approximately eight million Euros and the TUM invested about one million Euros.
Prof. Dr. Volker Gümmer
Technical University of Munich
Chair of Turbomachinery and Flight Propulsion