Suspension plasma spraying (SPS) process has attracted extensive effort and interest as a method to produce fine-structured and functional coatings. In particular, thermal barrier coating (TBC) applied by SPS process has gained increasing interest due to its potential for producing coatings that provide superior thermal protection of gas turbine hot-section components as compared to conventional APS-TBC and even EB-PVD TBC. The unique columnar architecture and nano- and submicron sized grains in a SPS-TBC coatings demonstrate some advantages in thermal shock durability, low thermal conductivity, and high-temperature sintering resistance. This work addresses some practical aspects of using the SPS process for TBC applications before it becomes a reliable industry method. The spray capability and applicability of SPS to achieve uniform thickness and microstructure on curved substrates was evaluated in designed spray trials to simulate industrial parts with complex configurations. The performance of SPS-TBCs in erosion, free falling ballistic impact, and indentation loading tests was evaluated to simulate SPS-TBC performance in turbine service conditions. The behaviors of SPS-TBCs in those tests were correlated to key test factors including grit incident angles, impact object sizes, indentation head shapes, and coating surface curvatures. Finally, a turbine blade was coated and sectioned to verify SPS sprayability in multiple critical sections. The SPS trials and test results demonstrate that SPS is promising for innovative TBCs, but some challenges need to be addressed before it becomes an economical and reliable industrial process, especially for gas turbine components.

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