Damage to jet engines by airborne particulates; Detection and mitigation

Theme: Measurement techniques

Start date: cohort 1: 2019

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Watson (Bristol) and Dr Paul Williams (Manchester)

Mineral aerosols, such as volcanic ash and desert dust, present significant but uncertain risk to jet aircraft. To constrain this uncertainty the PhD researcher undertaking this project will design, build and test a jet engine simulator that will emulate engine conditions and will be field tested in a real world environment. The denouement of this project will be flying the simulator into desert storms and volcanic ash clouds on drones.

Volcanic ash is an aerosol capable of causing both short and long term impacts for aviation around the globe. Short term impacts include flights which have experienced total engine failure due to ash ingestion, whereas longer term impacts include the “no fly zone” being implemented across Europe during the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which caused economic chaos. Therefore, it is important to fully understand the effect ash particulates have on jet engines. The variation in ash composition, along with particle size and distribution, can have a significant effect on how it is deposited within the engine. In order to test these variables engine simulation experiments will be carried out which involve heating ash to the operating temperature of a jet engine(~2000oC) in a jet flame and firing it onto both a metal target which will either be uncoated or treated with a thermal barrier coating. Further research will involve designing a small on-wing device which could be used to gather in-situ measurements, helping pilots to determine whether they are flying through volcanic ash that may previously have been undetected. Although the majority of this research will focus on volcanic ash, desert dust also has the potential to be damaging to jet engines due to its complex chemical nature and abundance in arid regions.