Power Plant Technology

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Even in times of energy transition, modern power plants remain an important pillar of secure energy supply. Power plants must be energy-optimized to achieve maximum efficiency and at the same time meet complex technological demands. This results in sophisticated requirements for the components and materials used.

We use the laser as a tool when we harden, join or test highly loaded components for power plants and conveyor systems. In addition, our high-performance coatings – in line with the “Green Economy“ approach – increase the lifetime of components. The use of additive manufacturing processes facilitates the overcoming of technical feasibility limits in turbine construction. As an expert project partner, we have the necessary expertise to develop advanced technologies and integrate them into our customers' manufacturing processes.

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Laser Hardening of Turbine Blades

Randschichthärten von Turbinenschaufeln mit Scanneroptik »LASSY« an einem Roboter mit einem Hochleistungsdiodenlaser.
© Fraunhofer IWS
Randschichthärten von Turbinenschaufeln mit Scanneroptik »LASSY« an einem Roboter mit einem Hochleistungsdiodenlaser.

Power generation with steam turbines is an essential factor in global energy supply. Steam turbines are used in numerous power plants based on fossil and renewable energy sources, such as geothermal or solar thermal power plants. During operation, the turbine blades are exposed to high mechanical load. In addition, tiny water droplets condensing from the steam cause massive damage to the leading edges. The blades are typically made of martensitic hardening or precipitation hardening steels, whose strength and microstructural properties are optimized for use under high centrifugal forces and fatigue loads, but exhibit significant shortcomings against droplet impact wear.

To resist the entire load mix, Fraunhofer IWS scientists have developed special processes for both material classes. These processes harden the surface layer at the leading edges to withstand the load and thus increase the service life of the turbine blades. After locally laser heat treating the leading edge – depending on the material – a customized subsequent furnace treatment is usually required to set the best possible strength and residual load state for the application. In this way, the surface layer becomes hard and wear-resistant at particularly loaded points, while the core remains unchanged in its pre-optimized hard-tough state.

The monitoring and control of the complex process is achieved with the Fraunhofer IWS developed system technology for temperature field control using special thermal imaging cameras (type "E-MAqS") in combination with dynamic beam shaping (scanning system "LASSY").

During the last 25 years, Fraunhofer IWS scientists have developed laser hardening processes for numerous turbine blade types and steels for industrial partners and hardened more than 55,000 turbine blades. In total, an estimated more than 1,000 turbines with laser-hardened turbine blades are in operation in power plants worldwide.


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