IIT Madras and GE establish ‘Expanded Gas Turbine Combustor Testing Facility’ at NCCRD, the first such facility in Academia globally

CHENNAI : Indian Institute of Technology Madras and General Electric (GE), the American Multinational firm, have established an ‘Expanded Gas Turbine Combustor Testing Facility’ at National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD). This is the first such facility to come up in an academic institution globally.

This state-of-the-art facility is among the few such facilities globally that can test combustor designs in realistic operating conditions. The NCCRD is an IIT Madras Research Centre that undertakes research on automotive, thermal power and aerospace propulsion, fire research and microgravity combustion.

The ‘Expanded Gas Turbine Combustor Testing Facility’ was inaugurated today (31st March 2022) in the presence of Mr. Alok Nanda, CEO, GE India Technology Centre and CTO – GE South Asia, Mr. Vikram Reddy, General Manager, Engineering, India, GE Aviation, Prof. V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, Prof. S.R. Chakravarthy, Coordinator, NCCRD, IIT Madras, other Faculty and Researchers.

Addressing the inaugural event, Mr. Alok Nanda, CEO, GE India Technology Centre and CTO – GE South Asia, said, “I look at this gas turbine combustion testing facility as a National asset. Best research work happens wherever there is collaborative work, and access to funding from companies and government. This facility is an example of how to undertake research in India in a manner that makes India independent in solving problems.”

The facility will enable IIT Madras Researchers to further their research in high-pressure combustion research. It will help professors and research scholars to work on high-pressure combustion. This facility will lead to further understanding the combustion physics and cultivation of a talent pool in the field of gas turbine research.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof. V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, said, “For the last 20 years, IIT Madras has been focusing on building Aatmanirbhar Bharat projects. The institution is requesting the General Electric to consider IIT Madras to be their top partner in the case of any academic venture that they are planning to have across the globe. Also, the institute has a vision to train more students from below poverty line, give them access to the facilities and make them competent for the industry standards.”

New combustor design concepts are already being tested and some of these designs may reach the market in the near future. This facility can also be a stepping stone for start-ups involved in combustion related product development. Over the long term, facilities such as these could enable India to become ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ in Gas Turbine Combustion technology.

Highlighting the collaboration between IIT Madras and GE, Mr. Vikram Reddy, General Manager, Engineering, India, GE Aviation, said, “Today, GE Aviation is focussed on sustainability. We want our products to be planet-friendly and combustion plays a significant role in that. This facility helps us to understand about future combustors and help us work on our products.”

Elaborating on the unique aspects of ‘Expanded Gas Turbine Combustor Testing Facility,’ Prof. S.R. Chakravarthy, Coordinator, NCCRD, said, “This collaboration with General Electric has been a great journey as they have stood as an example of where the funding agency has shown great interest and enthusiasm for the research work.”

With growing concerns over environmental pollution and increasing oil prices, it is important to build a next-generation gas turbine that is both fuel-efficient and less polluting. In a gas turbine engine, the combustor is one of the most important parts which dictate the fuel efficiency, length of the gas turbine and specifically the amount of pollutants released in the atmosphere.

Several improved combustor concepts have emerged recently with the goal to reduce pollutants. Especially, with the world moving towards zero carbon emission, there is a huge requirement to test the existing combustor engines with hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel.

However, bringing these concepts into reality requires testing the designs at realistic operating conditions. Unfortunately, only a few labs in the world have such capability. This new high-pressure test facility at NCCRD, IIT Madras, will bridge this gap and address this challenge.

The facility has the capability to test sector/full annular combustors up to a flow rate of 3 kg/s at 10 bar, 350° C. The facility comprises of 6 screw compressors with a combined electric load of 1.5 MW and a 1 MW electric air heater. This facility also includes a water spray circuit to cool down the flue gases, which can pump up water up to 2kg/s at 20 bar. The entire operation is automated and the experiments are run by operators remotely from a control room.

The facility also has a wide range of instrumentation and data logging capabilities, specifically, it houses aviation-grade for continuous high-pressure emission measurements. The facility has been built in compliance with environmental pollution control requirements.

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