URI to host first-ever international aerospace conference

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More than 100 engineers, scientists to discuss latest

sensors and testing techniques for jet engines

KINGSTON, R.I. –October 25, 2007– The production cost of a Boeing 777 jet engine can be as much as $10 million, and 15 to 20 percent of that cost is for engine instrumentation, testing and development.

With testing for safety and reliability such a critical and expensive part of jet engine manufacturing, engineers and scientists are working constantly to improve methods and equipment.

To enhance cooperation and communication among engineers, the University of Rhode Island, in conjunction with the Ohio Aerospace Institute, will hold an international aeronautics conference from Monday, Oct. 29 through Thursday, Nov. 1. About 150 engineers and scientists will attend the first-ever meeting of the U.S. Propulsion Instrumentation Working Group and the European Virtual Institute for Gas Turbine Instrumentation. It is the first time these groups will be hosted by a university. The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency on Goat Island in Newport.

Also attending will be representatives from the big three jet engine manufacturers– Rolls Royce, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney– as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Air Force and Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy and many other groups.

On Wednesday, Oct. 31, conference participants will tour the Inner Space Center at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, which is run by Professor Robert Ballard, and the Surface and Sensors Technology Laboratory on the Kingston Campus, which is run by Otto Gregory, URI professor of engineering and co-director of the Surface and Sensors Technology Partnership at URI. The partnership�s research includes the development of sensors used to measure temperature, pressure and stress in jet engines.

The keynote speakers are Peter Loftus, head of measurement capability at Rolls Royce and William Luebke of the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. Loftus will speak Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 8 a.m. and Luebke will speak at 8:45 a.m. The technical talks will begin Monday afternoon, Oct. 29 and will go through Thursday afternoon.

Germany, France, Spain, Italy and England are among the European Union countries represented at the conference.

“The Propulsion Instrumentation Working Group, the U.S.- based consortium in this field, normally meets every fall, but this will be the first time that aerospace engineers and scientists from the United States, Europe and Canada will meet to present findings and discuss the latest issues facing the gas turbine engine industry,” Gregory said. “Nearly everything related to the safety and reliability of jet engines and the tests that accompany those issues will be addressed at the conference,” Gregory said.

The URI scientist said the University is the ideal location for such a conference because it is close to three major jet engine facilities in the region: two Pratt & Whitney engine plants in Connecticut and a General Electric plant in Massachusetts. “We are always working to develop better ways to measure strain, temperature and pressure in these harsh environments,” Gregory said.

Through the URI Sensors and Surface Technology Partnership, Gregory has established URI as a leader in the highly focused area of jet engine instrumentation and testing. In one industry-wide testing program, turbine blade substrates were sent to engine companies around the world where state-of-the-art sensors were applied to the surface and forwarded to URI for testing. “We analyzed sensor lifetime and how they performed,” Gregory said. “This data provided a baseline that we can use to improve sensor technology.”

That’s critical because the exhaust gas velocities in a jet engine can reach 900 feet per second and the gas temperatures can reach 1,500 degrees Celsius, or 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit, which is near the melting point of steel, Gregory said.

“We need non-destructive ways of evaluating the integrity of jet engine components to determine if they can withstand the stresses, vibrations or temperatures seen during normal operation,” Gregory said.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Media are invited to cover the conference in Newport and the tours at URI. To make arrangements, please call Dave Lavallee, URI Department of Communications & Marketing, at 874-2116.