WITH the majority of the UK's crop of power stations beginning to reach the end of their productive lives contractors are under increasing pressure to cut maintenance downtime.
Now, thanks to researchers in Australia, maintenance engineers can repair power station turbine rotor blades in a matter of minutes rather than days.
A team led by Dr Nazmul Alam at the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation has hit upon a laser welding technique that can fix metal alloy powders to the surface of a turbine blade.
Dr Alam claimed said: 'The repair work can be carried out without the need to deblade the rotor. It only has to be removed from its casing.' This process helps to cut downtime as it is easier to regulate the heat compared to regular Tungsten Inert Gas welding.
Dr Alam said: 'Technically the process is not welding. The laser supplies a highenergy stream into which a metal alloy powder is directed. The laser fuses the metal to the blade's surface.'
The In Situ Laser Surfacing technique is ideal for repairing flaws in turbine blades caused by low-pressure steam erosion and has been trialled at the Torrens Island power station in Adelaide, South Australia. TRUenergy, the company which runs the power station, said two trials of the system had been carried out on 23 blades at the facility.