UTPA, working with NASA, leads cutting-edge research in jet turbine efficiency
Posted: 05/15/2003
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The University of Texas-Pan American and the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) Glenn Research Center are combining their efforts in revolutionary research that could save the airline industry and the military hundreds of millions of dollars. The research expects to show a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption and extended periods between turbine engine overhauls as turbine tip clearance within the aircraft propulsion system is made more efficient.

Dr. Javier Kypuros, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at UTPA was chosen among candidates from all over the nation to work with the NASA Glenn Research Center located at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio on a summer faculty fellowship in 2002.

Kypuros' qualifications made him the best choice for the fellowship. Because of his strong research in control systems, dynamic modeling and heat transference NASA Glenn invited him to work with them on the turbine tip clearance project. At the end of his fellowship they provided him with a grant and asked him to continue his research.

Kypuros is working closely with Kevin Melcher, research engineer at NASA Glenn, to develop mathematical models and numerical simulations appropriate for prototyping and designing such advanced systems.

"I'm building a mathematical model to create a more effective tip clearance within the turbine, ultimately resulting in a more efficient consumption of fuel and longer terms between maintenance. If this initial research proves feasible NASA Glenn will solicit the private sector to expand on the research," Kypuros said. "In as early as 15-20 years we could be saving several million dollars per year in commercial and military airline industries."

The early research is attempting to develop models of the turbine blade dynamics. The software will serve as a virtual model (or numerical) test-bed for prototyping actuator and controller technologies. These technologies promise to optimize control of the turbine tip clearance within the propulsion housing, hopefully proving more fuel efficient and less demanding on engines. The extensive impact of this research isn't isolated to airline companies and military aircraft, but it will also facilitate the development of future technologies implemented by gas turbine manufactures.

Aeropropulsion is just one of many areas of research that the NASA Glenn Research Center works in partnership with government, industry and academia to develop critical technologies. Through its collaboration with outside institutions, the research center has won many awards including an EMMY, a Collier Trophy, and the 1996 and 2002 Invention of the Year Awards.