thermal barrier coatings, thermal wave imaging, photostimulated luminescence spectroscopy


Gas Turbine manufacturers strive for increased operating temperatures of gas turbine engines to improve efficiency and performance. One method of increasing the temperature beyond material limits is by applying thermal barrier coatings (TBCs) to hot section components. TBCs provide a thermal gradient between the hot gases and metallic substrate, and allow an increase in turbine inlet temperatures of 100-150ºC. However, spallation of TBCs can cause catastrophic failure of turbine engines by incipient melting of the substrate. To prevent such an occurrence, non-destructive evaluation (NDE) techniques are critical for quality control, health monitoring, and life assessment of TBCs. Two techniques in development for this purpose are thermal wave imaging (TWI) and photostimulated luminescence (PL) spectroscopy. TWI is a promising NDE technique with the ability to detect integrity and thickness of TBCs. In this study, TWI was employed as an NDE technique to examine as-coated TBCs with varying thicknesses, and thermally-cycled TBCs for initiation and progression of subcritical-subsurface damage as a function of thermal cycling. TWI and thermal response amplitude were correlated to the microstructural characteristics and damage progression of TBCs based on phenomenological expressions of thermal diffusion. The TBC specimens examined consisted of air plasma sprayed ZrO2 - 7wt.% Y2O3 on NiCoCrAlY bond coats with Haynes 230 superalloy substrate. As-coated specimens of varying thicknesses were evaluated by TWI to examine its applicability as a thickness measurement tool. It was found that heat dissipation through the TBC following pulsed excitation by xenon flash lamps initially followed the 1-D law of conduction and deviated from it as a function of thickness and time. The deviation resulted from quick dissipation of heat into the conductive metallic substrate. Therefore, with calibration, TWI can be used as a tool for YSZ thickness measurements of APS TBCs in the as-coated condition for quality control measures. Specimens of uniform thickness were evaluated as a function of thermal cyclic oxidation for subcritical-subsurface damage detection. Thermal cycling was carried out in air with 30-minute heat-up, 10-hour dwell at 1150°C, 30-minute air-quench and 1-hour hold at room temperature. During thermal cycling, TBC specimens were evaluated non-destructively by TWI at room temperature every 10 to 20 thermal cycles, and selected specimens were removed from thermal cycling for microstructural analysis by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Higher thermal response amplitude associated with disrupted heat transfer was observed where localized spallation at or near the YSZ/TGO interface occurred. The health of the TBC was monitored by a rise in thermal response amplitude which may indicate a coalescence of microcracks to a detectable level. PL has been developed to measure stress, and detect subsurface damage and polymorphic transformation within the thermally grown oxide (TGO) of TBCs. PL was employed in this study as an NDE technique for TBCs to correlate subsurface damage as a function of thermal cyclic oxidation. The TBCs consisted of ZrO2 – 7 wt.% Y2O3 applied by electron beam physical vapor deposition with an as-coated (Ni,Pt)Al bond coat on a CMSX-4 superalloy substrate. Specimens were thermally cycled with a 10 minute ramp to a peak temperature of 1121°C, 40 minute hold at peak temperature, and 10 minute forced air quench. The TBCs were periodically removed from thermal cycling for NDE using PL until failure. Two specimens were removed from thermal oxidation after 10% and 70% of the average lifetime for microstructural analysis by SEM. During initial thermal cycling, metastable phases and polymorphic transformations of the Al2O3 scale were examined by PL. The polymorphic transformation from a metastable phase to equilibrium a-Al2O3 was detected. Since metastable phases are thought to be detrimental to coating lifetime, detection of these phases by PL can be used as a quality control tool. Nearing end-of-life, relief of the TGO from the compressive residual stress arising from thermal expansion mismatch was detected with PL and confirmed with microstructural analysis that revealed damage initiation (e.g. microcracking within the TGO scale parallel to the interfaces.) Rise in luminescence near the R-line frequency for polycrystalline a-Al2O3 without any residual stress (i.e. n = 14402 cm-1 and n = 14432 cm-1) corresponded to regions where cracked TGO was adhered to YSZ and not exposed to compressive stresses from thermal expansion mismatch upon cooling.


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Graduation Date





Sohn, Yong-Ho


Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (M.S.M.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Materials Science and Engineering








Release Date

August 2005

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)