GE Research launches project to develop metal additively manufactured heat exchanger

April 24, 2019

GE Research launches project to develop additively manufactured heat exchanger

Prototype of metal additively manufactured heat exchanger (Courtesy GE Research)


GE Research, Niskayuna, New York, USA, the R&D division of GE, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, has launched a $2.5 million project through the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E)’s High Intensity Thermal Exchange through Materials and Manufacturing Processes programme (HITEMMP) to develop a high-temperature, high-pressure and super-compact heat exchanger that would reportedly enable cleaner and more efficient power generation in both existing and next-generation power plant platforms.

A team of renowned experts in high-temperature metal alloys, thermal management and Additive Manufacturing is expected to partner with the University of Maryland, USA, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, USA, to develop a 900°C (1652°F) and 250 bar (3626 psi) capable heat exchanger that would enable advanced applications in power and aviation that create a step change in energy efficiency. GE Research reports that the goal of the 2.5-year programme is to develop and demonstrate the additively manufactured heat exchanger at full temperature and pressure capabilities.

The new heat exchanger will reportedly leverage a unique, high-temperature capable, crack-resistant nickel superalloy, designed specifically for the Additive Manufacturing process by the team at GE Research. Oak Ridge National Laboratory will leverage their expertise in corrosion science to test and validate the materials’ long-term performance. When completed, the heat exchanger will enable increased thermal efficiency of indirect heated power cycles such as supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) Brayton power generation, reducing energy consumption and emissions. In addition, high-temperature capable heat exchangers offer new opportunities in advanced aerospace applications.

Peter De Bock, a Principal Thermal Engineer for GE Research and project leader on the ARPA-E award, stated, “We’re taking our deep knowledge in metals and thermal management and applying it in ways we couldn’t have before through the power of 3D printing. With 3D printing, we can now achieve new design architectures previously not possible. And this will allow us to create an ‘UPHEAT’ device that can operate cost-effectively at temperatures 250°C (450°F) degrees higher than today’s heat exchangers.”

According to De Bock, the heat exchangers perform a similar function to the lungs in the human body; “Lungs are the ultimate heat exchanger, circulating the air you breathe to keep the body functioning at peak performance while also regulating your body’s temperature,” he explained. “Heat exchangers in power generation equipment like a gas turbine essentially perform the same function, but at much higher temperatures and pressures. With Additive Manufacturing, GE and the University of Maryland will now explore more intricate biological shapes and designs to enable a step change in heat exchanger performance that delivers higher efficiency and lower emissions.”

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