It’s very hard to set up a jet engine in a wind tunnel and get accurate measurements inside it while it’s rotating 7,000 times a minute.
So while other members of the University of Melbourne’s mechanical engineering department use wind tunnels to measure turbulence on the surface of airplanes, Professor Richard Sandberg has developed a computer program to make the same measurements inside an engine.
His work also applies to the turbines used to generate power from gas, wind and wave.
“The fuel to power General Electric’s turbines alone costs $200 billion per year, so even a one per cent improvement in efficiency is a $2 billion saving,” Richard says.
“And that’s before you consider emissions savings.”
As the parts of an engine or turbine move relative to each other, the turbulence interacts as well—and the design tools that the aviation industry have been using to date don’t account for this relative motion.
In collaboration with engine manufacturers, Richard has developed a piece of coding for supercomputers to model sections of the engines—studying how the eddies on each surface interact.
“Industry can’t afford to run design simulations on supercomputers, so we extract the information from our simulations to input into the industry models,” Richard says.
“At the moment we’re just playing around the edges of the current design, but I dream of a day where engineers will be able to model vastly different designs, not just on supercomputers, but at their own desktop computers.”
For more information:
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Melbourne
+61 3 8344 9084
Banner image: Snapshot of a video simulation showing turbulence inside a model of a turbine stage.
Credit: Richard Sandberg and Richard Pichler