Modern industrial gas turbines typically employ lean-premix combustors, which can limit pollutant emissions thanks to premixed flames, while sustaining high turbine inlet temperatures that increase the single-cycle thermal efficiency. As such, gas-turbine first stage nozzles can be characterized by a highly-swirled and temperature-distorted inlet flow field. However, due to several sources of uncertainty during the design phase, wide safety margins are commonly adopted, having a direct impact on engine performance and efficiency. Therefore, aiming at increasing the knowledge on combustor-turbine interaction and improving standard design practices, a non-reactive test rig composed of real hardware was assembled at the University of Florence, Italy.

The rig, accommodating three lean-premix swirlers within a combustion chamber and two first stage film-cooled nozzles of a Baker Hughes heavy-duty gas turbine, is operated in similitude conditions. The rig has been designed to reproduce the real engine periodic flow field on the central vane channel, also allowing for measurements far enough from the lateral walls. The periodicity condition on the central sector was achieved by the proper design of both the angular profile and pitch value of the tailboards with respect to the vanes, which was carried out in a preliminary phase via a Design of Experiments procedure. In addition, circular ducts needed to be installed at the injectors outlet section to preserve the non-reactive swirling flow down to the nozzles’ inlet plane.

The combustor-turbine interface section has been experimentally characterized in nominal operating conditions as per the temperature, velocity and pressure fields by means of a five-hole pressure probe provided with a thermocouple, installed on an automatic traverse system. To study the evolution of the combustor outlet flow through the vanes and its interaction with the film-cooling flow, such measurements have been replicated also downstream of the vanes’ trailing edge.

This work allowed for designing and providing preliminary data on a combustor simulator capable of equipping and testing real hardware film-cooled nozzles of a heavy-duty gas turbine. Ultimately, the activity sets the basis for an extensive test campaign aimed at characterizing the metal temperature, film effectiveness and heat transfer coefficient at realistic aerothermal conditions.

In addition, and by leveraging experimental data, this activity paves the way for a detailed validation of current design practices as well as more advanced numerical methodologies such as Scale-Adaptive Simulations of the integrated combustor-turbine domain.

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