A history of success: TDAP helps sense a business case for Coating Systems

Under new legislation in the automotive industry, – Euro 6d and China 6b – exhaust gas after-treatment and combustion systems needed to focus on reducing CO2 output.

While overfueling of turbochargers has previously been practiced to cool down the system, this will be prohibited under new emission standards. At the same time, thermo-mechanical fatigue is one of the main failure mechanisms for turbochargers.

To overcome these challenges, sophisticated compentent designs and new materials are required and need to be validated in robustness and durability tests. Advances in sensor technology have made it easier to measure temperature in harsh environments, and yet there are still practical limits to where sensors can be installed in working machinery.

London-based Sensor Coating Systems (SCS), has developed a novel approach that tackles this problem from a rather different direction. Instead of measuring the temperature of the component during operation, it’s developed a unique smart material that can be applied as a paint or a coating. As the component heats up, the material’s structure undergoes a transformation from amorphous to crystalline, with the degree of crystallisation accurately reflecting the peak temperature that it’s experienced.

This technology works for peak temperatures ranging from 150 to 1,600°C. Depending on the application, the part can be tested for up to 4,500 hours before the measurement is carried out. SCS’s robust technology can be employed in cyclic operations and in environments that would be too harsh for conventional methods. Furthermore, SCS temperature mapping technology allows full coverage and provides significantly more thermal gradient information for designers.

Having previously worked with aerospace organisations, SCS was keen to evaluate potential automotive applications. It was at this point that managing director Dr Jörg Feist became aware of the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s (APC) Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP). He put the company forward and successfully secured £104,500 of grant support.

“The support from the APC’s TDAP programme allowed us to focus on the automotive business case for 18 months,” comments Feist. “We looked at high-temperature applications like turbochargers, valves and pistons.”

An accurate temperature record for these components not only makes it easier to optimise their physical properties, but also sheds light on the thermodynamic processes taking place within the engine. This information can be used to improve the interpretation of the durability test and accelerate new product release. This could have significant implications for engine optimisation and CO2 reduction.

The APC’s consultancy partner, E4tech, worked with SCS to evaluate market opportunities where the thermal history technology could be applied. Meanwhile, the grant support has allowed SCS to grow its workforce and expand its marketing in the automotive sector.

“The TDAP support was really useful, and not just from a technical perspective,” Feist points out. “If you have a technology that you think might be applicable in automotive, but you’re unsure of its commercial value or you need to address IP issues, the APC provides invalable guidance and a wide network of further support from experts in the business.”

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