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

Jacob Snyder Awarded the 2018 Allan J. Brockett Pratt & Whitney – Penn State Student Award

June 1, 2018

Jacob Snyder, 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.

Jake was recognized for the uniqueness of his doctoral research which involves tuning parameters used in the additive manufacturing process in order to construct a surface that has optimal performance. His approach has truly led us to the fundamentals of understanding what kind of AM surface is desirable and how can that surface be achieved? Jake has successfully authored and co-authored a total six archival journal papers thus far in his career with two more papers under review. The paper that he presented at the 53rd AIAA/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference won the 2017 Best Paper from ASME/AIAA/SAE Propulsion Technical Committee. Jake has also played a role in professional service as the past chair of the ASME Gas Turbine Segment’s Students Advisory Council. Because of his outstanding presentation skills, he was chosen to co-teach a communication workshop at Simula Research in Oslo Norway. He was also chosen to assist with a one week course at Shanghai Jiao Tong University on gas turbine advanced manufacturing.

Solar Turbines Inc. selects Penn State to establish center of excellence

May 18, 2018

Solar Turbines Incorporated has chosen Penn State as a university partner to establish a center of excellence in gas turbines. The Solar Turbines – Penn State Center of Excellence in Gas Turbines is aimed at advancing industrial gas turbines and expands the full range of relevant research, including combustion, aerodynamics, heat transfer, materials and advanced manufacturing.


START’s Additive Group Wins AIAA/ASME/SAE Best Paper Award

April 13, 2018

START’s research in additive manufacturing is being recognized by the community throgh their most recent award, which was the 2017 Propulsion Committee Best Paper Award. Their paper entitled, Repeatability in Performance of Micro Cooling Geometries Manufactured with Laser Powder Bed Fusion (AIAA-2017-4706) was presented at the 53rd AIAA/ASME/SME Joint Propulsion Energy Forum held in Atlanta. The paper was co-authored by Dr. Kathryn Kirsch, Jacob Snyder, Dr. Curtis Stimpson, Dr. Karen Thole, and Dominic Mongillo from Pratt & Whitney. The paper describes the making of microchannels for turbine cooling with a particular emphasis on the variability. The award will be given to the group at the 2018 Propulsion and Energy Forum in Cincinnati this July.

Kirsch Receives First Place in Vizzies Competition

January 30, 2018

Kathryn Kirsch won first place in the Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Department's second annual Vizzies Award Ceremony. Inspired by a similar competition held by the National Science Foundation (NSF), students are encouraged to submit visually engaging pieces that represent their research. Her submission is titled, "Metal Powder for Additive Manufacturing." Read more...

Siroka Receives Best Presentation Award at IMECE

January 22, 2018

Shawn Siroka recently attended the 2017 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Expo (IMECE) to receive the Warren M. Rohsenow Prize for best presentation of a paper on gas turbine heat transfer from the 2016 IMECE conference. His paper was titled, “Unsteady Heat Transfer around Low Aspect Ratio Cylinders in an Array”, and his co-authors were Melissa Shallcross and Dr. Stephen Lynch from the ExCCL lab.

Lynch Receives Shuman Family Early Career Professorship

November 16, 2017

Steve Lynch was awarded the Shuman Family Early Career professorship by the College of Engineering, in recognition of his potential in research, service, and teaching. The three-year professorship was established through a generous donation by Clyde W. Shuman Jr. and Nancy Shuman, and is intended to supplement departmental support for an outstanding faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering during the critical early years of their academic careers. Read more...

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

September 14, 2017

Kathryn 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.

Kathryn’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. Kathryn 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...

Kathryn Kirsch Wins 2016 Turbo Expo Best Heat Transfer Paper

July 3, 2017

Kathryn 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 Kathryn’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...