The future of coatings in turbomachinery

Fouling and corrosion in petrochemical compressors and steam turbines are the two long-standing problems for the turbomachinery industry. Fouling refers to solid particles, usually polymers, which adhere (stick) to the internal aerodynamic surfaces of the compressors. This usually does not cause catastrophic failure but can lead to reduced efficiencies and in some case lead to blockage of the gas passages causing premature shut down of the machine.

In a steam turbine, fouling is condensation of impurities (salts) from the steam on the latter stages. This can cause corrosion and fouling of the rotor and can lead to imbalance and high vibration problems, causing possible shut down of the machine.

Over the past 20 years, OEMs have developed coatings to address this problem of fouling and corrosion in both compressors and steam turbines. The author's company has been a leader since the ’70s in developing new anti-fouling coatings to prevent fouling and corrosion.

With new material technology emerging, coatings whether nano-structure or not, are expected to be the solutions to many such engineering problems. Whether coatings will play a major role in changing the future of turbomachinery industry, and help enhance and improve the reliability of compressors and turbines is yet to be seen.