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Harsh Environment Sensors

200 sensors across the turbine generate 300 data points per second

NETL uses advanced manufacturing techniques to create novel sensors that can be embedded into power plant components for operation in severe environments.

Sensors are important for increasing plant efficiency and reliability because they monitor the performance of critical components and transmit data to distributed networks to support decision making and contribute to improved safety and system design.

Because of high temperatures, cyclic loading and corrosive atmosphere in plants, sensors must be made from materials that are designed to withstand extreme conditions and require minimal upkeep. They must also have equally robust transducers (devices that translate physical quantities like temperature and pressure into electrical signals) to maintain reliability and effectively transmit data that is captured by the sensor.

This NETL expertise facilitates the design and production of cost-effective prototype technologies that can be rapidly reproduced for wide distribution.

Research Areas:

Optical fibers: The development of harsh environment sensors relies on the development of specialized functional materials for the sensing element, and transducer parts that improve device stability. used in the transducer. Optical fibers are a promising solution because they can eliminate electrical wiring and contacts directly at the sensing location, and can be tailored as necessary for specific environments. Optical fibers also eliminate the possibility for interference with electrical systems native to the equipment.

Surface acoustic wave devices: Surface acoustic wave devices are also a viable option for many harsh environments because, as a non-contact approach, the probe is less susceptible to degradation and is compatible with wireless transmission of data. Because wireless transmission can introduce data vulnerability, NETL’s Crosscutting Program addresses the issue in its cyber security research area.

NETL Involvement:NETL sensor development

As part of an effort to improve reliability, decrease cost and control output, NETL aggressively pursues a robust sensor development approach to create sensors that can operate in extreme conditions. The program develops solutions that are transferrable to many other technologies in the Fossil Energy R&D portfolio and across the energy sectors.

NETL maintains uncommon technical facilities that have been specifically tailored to test and demonstrate the performance of emerging sensor technologies.

For example, the Laboratory’s High-Pressure Combustion Facility simulates the hot gas path of a turbine. Using either natural gas or hydrogen fuel, it can generate temperatures up to 1300°C.

NETL’s Hybrid Performance Facility (Hyper) is a 300kW solid oxide fuel cell gas turbine, in which engineers can change and measure more than100 different process variables. These and other facilities enable the rapid development of advanced sensors for harsh environments.