Penn State

Mechanical & Nuclear Engineering

Turbine Heat Transfer and Aerodynamics Group

Overview of ExCCL and START Labs

The Turbine Heat Transfer and Aerodynamics Group, in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn State, brings together two laboratories working on advanced topics in convective heat transfer for gas turbine engines. The Experimental and Computational Convection Laboratory (ExCCL) conducts studies of fundamental turbulence and applied convective heat transfer. Subjects being researched include interactions between the highly turbulent combustor flow and the downstream turbine, endwall secondary flow effects, and turbine blade cooling techniques. These problems are approached both experimentally as well as computationally. The Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) lab contains a new test turbine facility that is capable of testing true scale turbine hardware. The focus of START is on increasing turbine efficiencies through improved seals that reduce leakages between turbine components. Also of primary interest is better understanding of airfoil heat transfer under rotating conditions.

PSU ExCCL and START students, faculty, and staff at the Penn State Lion Shrine.



Recent News


Katie Kirsch Awarded the 2017 Allan J. Brockett Pratt & Whitney – Penn State Student Award

September 14, 2017

Katie Kirsch, PhD student in the START Lab was awarded this year’s Allan J. Brockett Award. Each year the award is given to a graduate student who demonstrates “technical excellence and leadership to the gas turbine industry.” The award is in the name of Mr. Allan Brockett, former VP of Engineering at Pratt & Whitney, who led the founding of the new START Lab.

Katie’s research is to optimize micro-cooling channels by employing additive manufacturing. Her groundbreaking work was recently recognized through her best paper award presented at the 2016 TurboExpo conference. She has also been a leader in the field through chairing the Gas Turbine Segment’s Student Advisory Council, which is only one of her many service activities. She was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and was also one of the original Engineering Ambassadors at Penn State. Katie plans to graduate in December 2017 with a PhD in mechanical engineering.


Thole wins 2017 Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity

August 30, 2017

Karen Thole, director of the START Lab, has been selected as a recipient of the 2017 ABET Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity. ABET is a professional accreditation agency in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology education. The Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity recognizes “extraordinary success in achieving or facilitating diversity and inclusiveness in the technological segments of our society.” Read More...


Phase II Upgrades on the START Test Turbine Complete

August 1, 2017

Completion of the second phase of the facility for the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) Lab at the Pennsylvania State University was completed this past year. Through strong support of Pratt & Whitney and the Department of Energy-National Energy Technology Lab, the lab was founded in 2011 to study aerodynamics, heat transfer, and secondary air systems using turbine hardware from operating engines at continuous, engine-relevant conditions. To perform the research aligned with the lab’s focus, a modern, one stage, test turbine is operated in a continuous flow mode. The vane/blade static and rotating Reynolds and Mach numbers are representative of current gas turbine engines. Prior to 2017, the facility provided unheated flow from one compressor for half-span airfoils. The upgrades in 2017 now provide the designed capabilities of heated flow for full-span airfoils. Read More...


Katie Kirsch Wins 2016 Turbo Expo Best Heat Transfer Paper

July 3, 2017

Katie Kirsch, PhD student in the START Lab, was recognized with a best heat transfer paper at the 2017 ASME Turbo Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina in June. The award she received was for her paper entitled, Heat Transfer and Pressure Loss Measurements in Additively Manufactured Wavy Microchannels, which she presented at the 2016 TurboExpo in Seoul. The same paper was recently published in the Journal of Turbomachinery. The paper was the first of its kind to show the advantages of producing shapes through the additive manufacturing process which have not been possible before with conventional manufacturing methods. Not only has Katie’s research been recognized, but also her service leadership through the Gas Turbine Segment’s Student Advisory Council (SAC). She recently served as the Chair of the SAC during which they broadened their activities to include several professional development opportunities for the students in SAC.


Stimpson Receives Alumni Association Dissertation Award

April 26, 2017

Curtis Stimpson, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the START Lab, received a 2017 Alumni Association Dissertation Award from the Graduate School. This award is considered to be among the most prestigious available to Penn State graduate students and recognizes outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishment. Stimpson was recognized for his experimental convective heat transfer research evaluating the use of additive manufacturing to cool components in gas turbine engines. He received his medal at the Graduate School Alumni Society's Recognition Program April 18. Read More...


START Lab Expansion Complete

March 21, 2017

Through strong support from United Technologies-Pratt & Whitney, a 2000 sq ft addition to the START Lab was recently completed. The additional space significantly increases available space for testing and fabrication to support the development and research for gas turbines. The new space will house a dedicated additive manufacturing research facility, a high speed linear cascade, a machine shop, and room for future test rigs and turbine assembly. A ribbon cutting event was held to celebrate this major milestone in the START Lab history. Attendees include representatives from United Technologies and Pratt and Whitney, the sponsors for the lab expansion, as well as College of Engineering Dean Amr Elnashai, and University Vice President for Research, Neil Sharkey. View Event Photos...


Lynch receives Volvo's Innovation Gateway Prize

February 6, 2017

Dr. Stephen Lynch, director of the ExCCL, has been awarded an Innovation Gateway prize for a nine-month study with Volvo titled “Optimized Diesel Engine, Exhaust Waste Heat Recovery Components via Additive Manufacturing.” Volvo is the first industry partner to complete a research challenge through Innovation Gateway, which aims to connect faculty ideas with organizations that can bring them to the marketplace. Read more...