Abradable seals have been used in jet engines since the late 1960's. Today they are seeing applications in low pressure and high pressure sections of compressors as well as the high pressure turbine module of jet engines. Clearance control systems using abradable coatings are also gaining ever more attention in industrial and steam turbine applications. Thermal spraying is a relatively simple and cost effective means to apply abradable seals. Abradable coatings work by minimizing gaps between rotating and stationary components by allowing the rotating parts to cut into the stationary ones. Typically plasma and combustion spray processes are used for applying abradable coatings. The types of coatings employed in the HP turbine are zirconia based abradable material systems with polymer and, in some cases, solid lubricant additions such as hexagonal boron nitride. The coatings are designed to work at service temperatures of up to 1200°C. Types of matrix materials used in the low and high pressure sections of the compressor are aluminum-silicon, nickel and MCrAlY based systems. These compressor type systems typically also contain fugitive phases of polymer and/or solid lubricants such as hexagonal boron nitride or graphite. Operating temperature, depending on the material of choice, can be up to 750°C. Regardless of the specific application, fugitive phases and porosity are needed for abradable coatings. Polymers are used to create and control porosity in plasma sprayed coatings, a critical design requirement in adjusting abradability and erosion properties of thermal spray coatings. Combustion spray coatings generate porosity through the lower deposition velocities and temperatures compared to plasma and typically do not need polymer phases. Solid lubricants are added to help weaken the structure of thermal spray coatings and reduce frictional heating and material transfer to the blade.

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