By: Kelly Salzo
HiFunda/UConn has been recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) to receive a STTR Phase IIA award for the development and commercialization of Solution Precursor Plasma Spray (SPPS) yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) thermal barrier coatings (TBCs). This UConn developed and patented technology, forged by UConn researchers Dr. Maurice Gell (MSE) and Dr. Eric H. Jordan (MSE/ME), was inspired by the USDOE’s initiative to increase the energy efficiency of gas turbine engines. HiFunda and UConn will partner to demonstrate the potential use of YAG as a top coat for TBCs, which has “lower thermal conductivity, higher use temperature, greater erosion resistance, and improved sintering resistance compared with the current yttria partially stabilized zirconia (YSZ) top coats.” The award provides one million dollars in funding for their 24-month program. In addition, nine industrial partners will contribute $400,000 of cost share funding.
The Phase IIA award is part of the Small Business Technology Transfer’s (STTR) highly competitive three-phase program, funding opportunities in innovation research by requiring small businesses to formally collaborate with a research institution, bridging the gap between pure research and commercialization. The award is crucial for small businesses, unable to afford the risk and expense necessary to perform research and development.
After demonstrating the capability of YAG in thermal coatings using the solution precursor plasma spray process (SPPS) in Phase 1, plans for Phase 2 involve demonstrating the advantages in cost, efficiency, and durability to justify widespread distribution of SPPS YAG TBCs. The ultimate goal of this research is to produce next generation turbines which will lead to optimal energy production, reduced energy costs, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, Dr. Gell and Dr. Jordan have teamed up with HiFunda President Dr. Balky Nair to form a new company called “Solution Spray Technologies” (SST) to further develop, commercialize, and license SPPS TBCs. SST will be located at UConn and has been granted an exclusive license for the SPPS TBC patents by the University.
Dr. Maurice Gell, MSE Professor Emeritus, received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1965. His current research includes advanced coatings technology development for enhanced durability and reduced cost, superior thermal barrier coatings using a novel solution spray process, developing laser fluorescence as a non-destructive inspection technique for thermal barrier coatings, and improving the durability of thermal barrier coatings and metallic coatings. He is also a fellow of the American Society for Metals International (ASM).
Dr. Eric H. Jordan (ME) received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1978. His research interests include mechanical behavior of materials with emphasis on high temperatures materials, thermal barrier coatings, thermal spray processing and properties, and nano crystalline materials. Dr. Jordan was named United Technologies Professor of Advanced Materials Processing in 2010.