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Jason Kessell,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: Northeastern University
GK-12-PLUS (Partners Linking Urban Schools)
URL: http://www.gk12.neu.edu

Thesis Title: An Experimental Investigation of Convective Heat Transfer
College/University: Northeastern University

Research Advisor: Mohammed Taslim

Degree Sought

University Department and/or Lab
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Research Focus
My research investigates how convection may be used to cool the blades in the turbine stage of gas turbine engines.

Description of Research
My research investigates how convection may be used to cool the blades in the turbine stage of gas turbine engines. By cooling the turbine blades, a higher operating temperature may be achieved for the engine, thus increasing efficiency and specific power output, allowing airplanes to fly faster and more efficiently on the same fuel. In order to cool the turbine blades, passages are molded into the turbine blades axially, which allow air from the compressor to travel the length of the blade and exit onto the surface via specially cut passages. The air exiting along the surface of the blade creates a boundary layer, thus separating the hot combustion gases from the blade and cooling the blade through convection. My project is to model a specific turbine blade section and cooling passage both experimentally and computationally, using special experimental apparatus and computational fluid dynamics software respectively to determine the effectiveness of the cooling flow from the passage.

My research project ensures that I always have heat transfer on my mind. I have explained the basis of my thesis to the students at my introduction to them, explaining that I develop ways to make jet engines run cooler and thus more efficiently so that a plane can fly higher and faster with the same engine and fuel.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
My thesis manifests itself in the extra material I bring surrounding thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluids. During our unit on electricity and magnetism, I developed a small demonstration using a steam engine to drive an electric generator to illustrate how thermal energy is converted into mechanical energy and electrical energy. I used basic principles of heat transfer and thermodynamics to explain how the flame heating the boiler caused the water molecules to move more quickly until they changed from a liquid to a gas and then to a gas at high pressure. By explaining that a gas at high pressure was just a gas with molecules that had more potential energy due to their increased speed of motion, I was able to show how high pressure gas could be harnessed to do work, such as spin a shaft and generate electricity. As we study more about fluids later in the year, my experience in the area will become more valuable. Early in February, we have arranged a field trip to the science museum where the students are to participate in a small design challenge to construct a windmill to convert the motion of a fan into electricity. This challenge not only relates to the generation of power as we discussed above, but also to fluid dynamics, which we will study later in the year.

Profile date: August 2007
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