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An investigation was conducted to better understand the time-dependent degradation of thermal barrier coated superalloy components in gas turbines. First-stage vanes are normally subjected to the highest gas velocities and temperatures during operation, and were thus the focus of the study. The samples that were analyzed had been operating at 1350 °C in a gas turbine at a combined-cycle generating plant. They were regenerated once, then used for different lengths of time. The investigation included chemical analysis, scanning electron microscopy, SEM/energy dispersive spectroscopy, and x-ray diffraction. It was shown that degradation is driven by chemical and mechanical differences, oxide growth, depletion, and recrystallization, the combined effect of which results in exfoliation, spallation, and mechanical thinning.

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