Plasma-assisted combustion for jet engines and gas turbines

FGC Plasma Solutions is working on a better fuel injector that incorporates plasma to better control combustion in jet engines and gas turbines.

This technology enables more optimum operation of the engine. In particular, by reducing fuel consumption during idling, savings are possible of between 1 percent to 5 percent per flight. This technology will also enable benefits from lower emissions; increased fuel flexibility; and improved reliability.

Critical need for this technology

Jet engines

Jet engine and gas turbine combustor design necessitates a trade-off between stability and optimum operation. The FGC Plasma Solutions technology will provide a single-point solution for many of these trade-offs in combustion chamber design.

Jet engines require a large amount of fuel to maintain stability when idling, which typically occurs for 26 minutes on an average flight, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)[1]. The FGC Plasma design can save an average of 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent in fuel consumption for domestic aircraft. This could result in a savings of 20 million metric tons of C02 per year and a fuel savings of more than $1 billion annually, based on FGC Plasma calculations derived using industry reports[2] .

Additionally, this technology can enable lighter jet engines by reducing the size of the combustion chamber. It also can reduce emissions and further testing will provide by an amount to be determined with further testing.

Early-stage testing also shows an improvement in ability to restart the engine at altitude during emergencies and a reduction in harmful emissions. These projections are derived from the results of FGC Plasma Solutions recent tests at NASA Glenn Research Center, which validated the performance of their technology at realistic conditions.

Gas turbines

In the case of gas turbines, the need to operate combustors at low fuel-air ratios in order to minimize noxious emissions leaves combustors prone to combustion dynamics that cause large vibrations in the engine, resulting in more than $1 billion in damage annually to the industry[3].

Turbines also can’t tolerate variations in fuel compositions that are greater than plus or minus 5 percent of the Wobbe index, which eliminates the ability to switch fuels easily or operate on fuels with varying compositions such as land fill gases and waste products from various industrial processes. The FGC Plasma technology would enable the use of low-British Thermal Units (BTU) opportunity fuels, which generate less heat, for power generation, which could save up to 1.5 quadrillion BTUs per year[4].

Unlike today’s gas-powered turbines with conventional combustion technologies, the FGC Plasma technology would enable turbines to follow rapid changes in electrical load, operate with stability at low powers, and burn fuels with low volumetric energy content.

Supplemental needs for this technology

  • The FGC Plasma technology could increase national energy efficiency by improving combustion in microturbines, enabling faster adoption of the US Department of Energy’s goal of providing 20 percent of US energy from distributed combined heat and power (CHP) to save 5.3 quadrillion BTUs per year.
  • The ability to burn a wide variety of fuels in gas turbines will allow manufactures to generate electricity from gasified waste products or production byproducts such as blast furnace gas.
  • This injector system is designed to be built with additive manufacturing processes, which could create a new market and drive job growth in that emerging industry.

Competition

  • Current combustion engine injector technology.
  • Plasma-assisted combustion R&D in industry and academia. However, this work has encountered problems scaling to realistic conditions.

Potential markets

Jet engines

  • Engine manufacturers, such as GE, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney,
  • End users such as airlines, Department of Defense customers and private aviation

Value proposition: Fuel savings of at least 1 percent and payback time of 2.7 years, based off current FGC Plasma R&D testing.

Gas turbines

  • Gas turbine part manufactures, such as Capstone Turbines and Ansaldo Energia
  • Gas turbine end users

Value proposition: The technology can run off a gas with less than 300 BTU/SCF while maintaining or improving emissions. Durability of at least 8,000 hours before overhaul and payback time between 3 to 5 years, based off current FGC Plasma R&D testing.

Key innovation

The development of a plug-and-play solution to introduce plasma into jet engines or gas turbines to enhance combustion. The patented fuel injector design can be cheaply installed during maintenance on both liquid-fueled and gaseous-fueled combustion systems.

R&D status of product

A successful proof of concept test of technology in jet engine-like conditions occurred in 2016. Also, validation of the technology at realistic operating conditions on research injectors has been done in tests in laboratory scale combustors at Case Western Reserve University and NASA Glenn Research Center. The next step is to scale up the research injector design to a geometry compatible with commercial use.

 For jet engines, it is estimated that a pre-commercial prototype can be developed with the help of an engine OEM and Argonne in 1.5 to 2 years at a cost of about $500,000.

For gas turbines, it is estimated that a microturbine product could be on the market within four years at a cost of about $300,000.

Team Overview

CEO
Felipe Gomez del Campo
Bachelor’s in mechanical and aerospace engineering Case Western Reserve University and working on a master’s in aerospace engineering from Case Western

COO
Joe Scott
Bachelor’s in finance from Case Western Reserve University

CTO
Drew Weibel
Bachelor’s in mechanical and Aerospace engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology  (MIT) and working on master’s in Aerospace Engineering from  MIT.

CFO
Aditya Rengaswamy
Bachelor’s in accounting from Case Western Reserve University

Research Engineer
Joe Heebner
Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, both from Case Western Reserve University

Advisors

none

Background Resources

FGC Plasma Demo video

Fact sheet: Plasma-Assisted Fuel Injector Cuts Costs, Adds Fuel Flexibility

Company Profile

  • Total Amount Raised: $130K
    • 2015 Clean Energy Trust Clean Energy Challenge: $50,000 for top Student Prize and $50,000 for Aviation Clean Energy Award
    • 2015 Young Enterprise Initiative: travel costs to visit potential commercial partners and collaborators in France
    • 2014 LaunchHouse Accelerator: $20,000 investment
    • 2014 Spartan Challenge Student Business Plan Competition: $10,000
  • Status: Private
  • Year Founded: 2014
  • Patents: US 94231333
  • Primary Industry: Aerospace and Defense
  • Category: Parts and equipment
  • Estimated annual revenue: $202,261
  • Employs: 5 people
  • Social Challenge: Energy
  • R&D commercial collaborator: Capstone Turbines

[1] https://www.ge.com/docs/chapters/Industrial_Internet.pdf
http://www.obsa.org/Lists/Documentacion/Attachments/84/Aircraft_Emissions_Modeling_Low_Power_EN.pdf
http://www.transtats.bts.gov/fuel.asp

[2] https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwj4h9r9o8zQAhWI1IMKHRjxDrQQFggbMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fsoliton.ae.gatech.edu%2Fpeople%2Ftlieuwen%2Fhummingresources%2Fhummingoverview.ppt&usg=AFQjCNFOQ4VwAE6ld92TCX4aGbkNXM0zpQ&bvm=bv.139782543,d.amc

[3] http://www.power-eng.com/articles/print/volume-108/issue-5/features/gas-turbines-on-line-monitoring-systems-help-silence-combustor-humming.html

[4] https://www1.eere.energy.gov/manufacturing/distributedenergy/pdfs/chp_clean_energy_solution.pdf

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