Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Jet engine too hot? Schedule an MRI!

Using magnetic resonance imaging to improve jet engine performance

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a medical imaging technology used to image organs and soft tissues, may hold the key to improving the efficiency of jet engines, according to Lt. Colonel Michael Benson, a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University.

In only a few hours, an MRI collects as much three-dimensional data on flow and mixing as conventional methods that take two or more years of intensive measurement. This promises to slash the time needed to develop and test new designs that improve efficiency and performance, promising energy savings.

Benson is using MRI's to improve jet engine efficiency -- work he describes today at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA. The technique could also provide insights into other fluid mixing problems, ranging from combustion to the flow of oil through porous rock in a well.

Benson's study is one of the first to use an MRI to gather flow data. The technique was pioneered by Stanford researchers Christopher Elkins and John Eaton who used it to study coral colonies and turbine blades. Eaton suggested that Benson, currently in the Army, use the technique to analyze the mixing of hot combustion and cooling gases in jet turbines.

Jet engines are more efficient when they run hotter. In fact, the blades just downstream of the engine's combustor run very close to their melting point. To maximize efficiency, the trailing edges of these blades are razor thin.

"If you don't actively cool them, they melt," Benson said.

Turbine engines cool blades by diverting some incoming air into a series of snake-like passages that run through each blade.

"At some point, the blades become too thin to do that, so they peel off some skin at the end of the blade and let the air run over the trailing edge," Benson said.

When that cooler air exits the blade, it mixes with the hot air from the combustor, increasing the temperature of the blade surface above the coolant temperature. By analyzing how the hot and bypass air mix, Benson hopes to optimize bypass design and reduce the required amount of coolant. This would boost engine performance and fuel efficiency.

This type of analysis starts by measuring the temperature and velocity of the hot and bypass air streams as they mix. Researchers do this by releasing small particles, such as fluorescent dyes or oil droplets and hitting them with a laser. This illuminates the particles, whose positions are caught on a high-speed camera. A computer then analyzes the pictures and calculates the location and speed of the particles.

Unfortunately, the cameras capture only a small area, or tile, at a time. They also have a very narrow depth of field, the range of distance where the photos are sharp enough for analysis. As a result, all the tiles must be stitched together into a picture of a single plane. To visualize a three-dimensional experiment, many planes need to be generated and stitched together.

This takes time. "I know one Ph.D. student who spent three years collecting this type of data," Benson said.

The MRI captures the same amount of data in four to eight hours, he continued. This is because MRI's are designed to image three-dimensional objects. They do this by systematically disturbing the protons within hydrogen molecules with an electromagnetic pulse, and measuring their locations as they quickly realign with the magnetic field.

Benson uses a research grade MRI imager to run his experiments. The MRI images water mixed with copper sulfate, a low cost chemical often used to kill algae in ponds, which provides a rapid response to the pulses.

"Medical MRIs often use gadolinium as a contrast agent, but that's really expensive, especially if you're feeding fluid for a scan that runs for hours," Benson said.

Although Benson is still analyzing blade trailing edge designs, he has already made progress. "I'm already able to increase the surface cooling by 10 percent, which is equivalent to a blade temperature reduction of 100 to 150 degrees F," he said.

The talk, "Measurements of 3D velocity and scalar field for a film-cooled airfoil trailing edge," is at 2:31 p.m. on Sunday, November 21, 2010, in Room 101A of the Long Beach Convention Center. ABSTRACT:

IMAGE: Images are available for use by reporters. Contact

CAPTION: "Scalar Measurements Using a Medical MRI Scanner: Gas Turbine Trailing Edge Film Cooling Application"

CREDIT: Reporters may use these images so long as they credit "M. Benson, Stanford University."


The 63rd Annual DFD Meeting is hosted this year by the University of Southern California, California State University Long Beach, California Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

It will be held at the Long Beach Convention Center, located in downtown Long Beach, California. All meeting information, including directions to the Convention Center is at:


Main meeting Web site:
Search Abstracts:
Directions to Convention Center:
Credentialed full-time journalist and professional freelance journalists working on assignment for major publications or media outlets are invited to attend the conference free of charge. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, please contact Jason Bardi (, 301-209-3091).


A reserved workspace with wireless internet connections will be available for use by reporters in the Promenade Ballroom of the Long Beach Convention Center on Sunday, Nov. 21 and Monday, Nov. 22 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Tuesday, Nov. 23 from 8:00 a.m. to noon. Press announcements and other news will be available in the Virtual Press Room (see below).


The APS Division of Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room will be launched in mid-November and will contain dozens of story tips on some of the most interesting results at the meeting as well as stunning graphics and videos. The Virtual Press Room will serve as starting points for journalists who are interested in covering the meeting but cannot attend in person. See:


Every year, the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics hosts posters and videos that show stunning images and graphics from either computational or experimental studies of flow phenomena. The outstanding entries, selected by a panel of referees for artistic content, originality and ability to convey information, will be honored during the meeting, placed on display at the Annual APS Meeting in March of 2011, and will appear in the annual Gallery of Fluid Motion article in the September 2011 issue of the American Institute of Physics' journal, Physics of Fluids.

This year, selected entries from the 28th Annual Gallery of Fluid Motion will be hosted as part of the Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room. In mid-November, when the Virtual Press Room is launched, another announcement will be sent out.


The Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society (APS) exists for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the physics of fluids with special emphasis on the dynamical theories of the liquid, plastic and gaseous states of matter under all conditions of temperature and pressure. See:

Jason Socrates Bardi | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>