Hot stuff: Leicester engineers examine how volcanic ash affects jet engines

Posted by pt91 at Sep 22, 2011 03:57 PM |
The combination of volcanic ash and aircraft has been the cause of many headlines in the past couple of years, but the risks of it are still poorly understood.
Hot stuff: Leicester engineers examine how volcanic ash affects jet engines

Credit: Boaworm (Wikipedia)

This is why a University of Leicester geologist is working with our MaTIC (Materials Technology Integration Centre) engineering centre on a study of how volcanic ash particles behave when heated in jet engines, combining our expertise in volcanology and materials engineering.

The study is led jointly by Dr Hongbiao Dong of our Department of Engineering and Dr Mike Branney of the Department of Geology.

The blades of aircraft engines operate at temperatures above their melting point and need a constant flow of cooling air blowing through tiny holes in the blades. The air floats onto the surface of the blades and forms a protective film that stops them reaching the same temperature as the combustion process of the engine.

Volcanic ash can reach a temperature of 2,000˚C in the engine, and will melt. If it is sucked into the tiny holes in engine blades the melted ash solidifies to a layer of glass and blocks the ventilation holes, and the engine will fail because the blades then melt.

The researchers will be using Thermal Analysis and X-ray Computed Tomography to analyse the temperature at which volcanic ash solidifies and melts, and will make better advice available to the aircraft industry as to whether it is safe to fly following an explosive volcanic eruption.

· University Press Release