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Research engineer Isak Jonsson presents the new compressor facility
​Photo: Henrik Sandsjö 

Full house at the inauguration of new compressor test facility

​“It’s challenging and exciting to go from the application to what we have here in front of us today. You don't just throw together a facility of this magnitude while you're working on a PhD thesis,” says Isak Jonsson, researcher at the Division of Fluid Dynamics and design master mind of the new compressor facility that is now expected to take Chalmers' hydrogen research for aviation to the next level.
The inauguration of the new compressor test facility took place at the end of October at Chalmers Laboratory of Fluids and Thermal Sciences. On the guest list were about 30 people, primarily from GKN Aerospace who attended on site to learn about the rig's construction and applications for the aviation industry – as well as to get a closer look at the rig IRL. The compressor rig has been developed over the course of three years and has been made possible through funding from the EU project ENABLEH2, whose long-term aim is to enable hydrogen-powered aviation as a way to approach the EU's climate goal of a CO2 reduction in aviation by 75% from 2000 to 2050.

Present to talk about the rig's origin, development process and technical design were Tomas Grönstedt, professor of turbomachinery, Professor Valery Chernoray, Director of Chalmers Laboratory of Fluids and Thermal Sciences and researcher Isak Jonsson. And for Isak, who’s been in charge of the technical construction of the compressor facility, the day will mark a personal milestone.  

Tomas Grönstedt and Isak Jonsson shows the new compressor facility to a curious guest

“I’m delighted to inaugurate this new resource at Chalmers today. This is actually my second facility for experimental studies in gas turbines with almost all components custom built, so regardless, it’s a huge undertaking in a three-year project like ENABLEH2. The fact that we’ve had to experience covid-19 with subsequent disruptions in supply chains did not exactly make the task any easier. Now, I’m looking forward to dedicating more time to education in the new MPMOB master's program and research projects such as MINIMAL,” says Isak Jonsson.

Aiming for a fossil-free aviation

The facility weighs about 8000 kilograms, consists of thousands of components and has a vertical deign. The test rig will now enable researchers to carefully study and measure air current behavior and heat exchange in a combustion engine when fueled with hydrogen – necessary knowledge when eventually introducing hydrogen as a possible fuel for the aviation industry.

Tomas Grönstedt is the Director of Chalmers' newly established competence center TechForH2 whose overall purpose is to develop new technology in hydrogen propulsion as a step in the transition to a fossil-free transport system. For him, the newly inaugurated compressor brings new and great possibilities for future tests in the field.​

Tomas Grönstedt talks about emissions from aviation in relation to EU climate goals

“The scientific community and industry have tried to increase the electrification of aviation in order to reach the climate goals set by EU. But it hasn't worked. Batteries are very good but cannot offer enough range for heavier vehicles. Which is why we thought of the idea to use hydrogen as a way to increase the range. An electric-powered airplane would be able to travel 500 kilometers at most. With hydrogen, the range could increase to 3,000 kilometers,” explains Tomas.

Paving the way for future collaborations

With the completion of the compressor facility, the wind tunnel lab now houses three test rigs, which will broaden the possibilities for research and testing in even more application areas than today. And in recent years, hydrogen research has been of particular interest in the lab.  ​

Valery Chernoray talks about application areas for the research carried out in the lab

“Recently, we’ve had three projects related to hydrogen in the lab and in the last three years we’ve had a total of 31 research projects in total with application areas in, for example, wind power, the shipping industry and the aviation industry, just to name a few - all aiming to make the world more environmentally friendly,” says Valery Chernoray.

When it was time for question time, the crowd was particularly keen to know more about the construction details of the rig as well as its functionality.  

“The compressor is a little over 1.2 m in diameter with several hundred blades, all made by very advanced manufacturing techniques. A problem with vertical design is the risk of dropping a screw into the compressor. Even if you use safety devices, it actually happened once and then I had to pick it up with the help of a magnet,” says Isak in front of a laughing audience and continues:

“We normally run it at approximately 2,000 revolutions per minute and we test it for 10 - 12 hours straight, which means we have to work in shifts.”

And the new facility sure seems to have sparked an interest among the invited guests.​

“Having the opportunity to collaborate with Chalmers in research projects like these is a crucial argument in the conversations we have with our customers in the aviation industry. When we can get access to "hard core evidence" from research, we may also position GKN ahead of our competitors on the world map,” says Henrik Runemalm from GKN Aerospace.

Text: Lovisa Håkansson

Page manager Published: Mon 07 Nov 2022.