Grad student awarded AT&T fellowship, using wireless tech to innovate turbines

Erin Cassidy Hendrick
March 08, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eric DeShong, a doctoral student in the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded the 2019 AT&T Graduate Fellowship. To provide funding and recognition to outstanding graduate students conducting research with wireless data applications, DeShong is forging new knowledge into the efficiency and performance of gas turbines using an innovative telemetry system.

Conducting his research in the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) lab under adviser Karen Thole, distinguished professor and mechanical engineering department head, DeShong is pioneering the use of a wireless system that sends measurement signals from rotating, complex components deep within the turbine.

DeShong explained, “Using this method, the heat transfer and fluid dynamics associated with turbine phenomena can be measured in ways that were previously impossible.”

“It’s not only something I enjoy doing, but I get to work with really incredible technology.” 

— Eric DeShong, doctoral student studying mechanical engineering

The wireless telemetry system is an innovation from the previous method used to gather these measurements, called a slip ring system. A wire brush that slips over the rotating piece, the slip ring is able to decipher measurements, but its simplicity comes with a cost.

“It’s a huge, bulky piece that presents a lot of design challenges within the turbine rig. It also requires a lot of maintenance,” he said. “Every time it needs to be serviced, you need to tear open the turbine.

“But with this wireless telemetry system," he added, "we are circumventing all those issues.”

The wireless telemetry system is much smaller, only about the size of a dinner plate, and is able to translate the signal from analog to digital closer to the sensor, which lessens the opportunity for the signal to be clouded by other machinery in the lab.

By supplying more precise measurements, DeShong said, “This system can really help us advance the understanding of heat transfer and pressure measurements within gas turbines.”

Powering so much of the world’s critical machinery, this wireless data transmission can help accelerate the advancement of turbine designs, further improving their efficiency to decrease fossil fuel consumption and minimize their environmental impact.

“I’m so pleased to see Eric recognized for his research efforts,” Thole said. “We are lucky to have him on our team as we continue to advance turbines.”

With this recent funding, DeShong said he is excited to continue exploring the impacts he can make with the research. He recently completed a test campaign, where he installed the telemetry system into a gas turbine at the START lab.

“Now that we fully understand how it works, we will begin taking measurements and devising a cooling scheme so it can operate safely within the turbine,” he explained.

For DeShong, his curiosity in the area was sparked during his undergraduate classes on fluid mechanics and heat transfer.

“From there, I found my passion for understanding gas turbines and how the underlying physics makes it all possible," he said.

Continuing on with his work in the START lab as a doctoral student, he said he is excited to keep building on his success.

“It’s not only something I enjoy doing, but I get to work with really incredible technology,” he said. 

 

Last Updated March 08, 2019