Putting A Bit Less Industry Into Industrial Blades

MERHDAD ZANGENEH WANTS to take the black art out of designing blades for pumps, compressors, and turbines. The researcher in University College London's mechanical engineering department says his superscript3-D software tool can cut design time from six months to a few days, while coming up with blades that preliminary tests indicate could be up to 10% more efficient.

Zangeneh uses inverse design. Instead of guessing at a good blade shape, and then testing its output, Zangeneh starts by specifying the output he wants. Then his computer program works backward to generate an efficient blade shape. The design concept has been around since the 1930s, but Zangeneh has moved the idea ahead by perfecting a computer program to carry it out.

So far, Zangeneh's program works for machines in which a fluid or gas is sucked into a blade and flung outward at a 90-degree angle as the blade spins. But he believes that within three years his technique could be extended to design axial compressors, such as those in jet engines, in which air or liquid flows through blades without changing direction.

Ebara Corp., the world's largest pumpmaker, is Zangeneh's biggest supporter. The Japanese company is testing prototypes and expects to begin production next year. Hiroyuki Kato, general manager of Ebara's Haneda Plant engineering development department, says that when it comes to blade design, "Zangeneh's technique...has the possibility to become the law."

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