Depth-Penetrating Luminescence Thermography of Thermal-Barrier Coatings

Temperatures at depths can be measured by luminescence decay of suitable thermographic phosphors.

A thermographic method has been developed for measuring temperatures at predetermined depths within dielectric material layers — especially thermal-barrier coatings. This method will help satisfy a need for noncontact measurement of through-the-thickness temperature gradients for evaluating the effectiveness of thermal-barrier coatings designed to prevent overheating of turbine blades, combustor liners, and other engine parts.

Heretofore, thermography has been limited to measurement of surface and near-surface temperatures. In the thermographic method that is the immediate predecessor of the present method, a thermographic phosphor is applied to the outer surface of a thermal barrier coating, luminescence in the phosphor is excited by illuminating the phosphor at a suitable wavelength, and either the time dependence of the intensity of luminescence or the intensities of luminescence spectral lines is measured. Then an emissivity-independent surface-temperature value is computed by use of either the known temperature dependence of the luminescence decay time or the known temperature dependence of ratios between intensities of selected luminescence spectral lines. Until now, depth-penetrating measurements have not been possible because light of the wavelengths needed to excite phosphors could not penetrate thermal-barrier coating materials to useful depths.

In the present method as in the method described above, one exploits the temperature dependence of luminescence decay time. In this case, the phosphor is incorporated into the thermal-barrier coat at the depth at which temperature is to be measured. To be suitable for use in this method, a phosphor must (1) exhibit a temperature dependence of luminescence decay time in the desired range, (2) be thermochemically compatible with the thermal-barrier coating, and (3) exhibit at least a minor excitation spectral peak and an emission spectral peak, both peaks being at wavelengths at which the thermal-barrier coating is transparent or at least translucent.

Conventional thermographic phosphors are not suitable because they are most efficiently excited by ultraviolet light, which does not penetrate thermal-barrier coating materials. (Typical thermal-barrier coating materials include or consist of various formulations of yttria-stabilized zirconia.) Only a small fraction of phosphor candidates have significant excitation at wavelengths long enough (>500 nm) for sufficient penetration of thermal-barrier coatings. One suitable phosphor material — yttria doped with europium (Y2O3:Eu) — has a minor excitation peak at 532 nm and an emission peak at 611 nm. In experiments, this material was incorporated beneath a 100-µm-thick thermal-barrier coating and subjected to excitation and measurement by the luminescence-decay-time technique. These experiments were found to yield reliable temperature values up to 1,100 °C. At the time of reporting the information for this article, a search for suitable phosphors other than (Y2O3:Eu) was continuing.

This work was done by Jeffrey Eldridge of Glenn Research Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.

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