MRIs get revved up
MRIs are staples in hospitals around the country, extremely useful in seeing internal structures in detail, such as soft tissues and organs.
Now, mechanical engineers are using MRI technology to improve the efficiency of jet engines. In just a few hours, an MRI can collect a wealth of 3-D data on the mixing of hot combustion and cooling gases in jet turbines. Comparably, conventional methods of measuring jet engine performance can take two or more years, says Army Lt. Col. Michael Benson, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Stanford University who is using MRI technology in his research.
“I know one Ph.D. student who spent three years collecting this type of data,” Benson says. With help from a research-grade MRI machine, Benson is attempting to find a better balance between the hot combustion necessary to make jet engines run and the cool gases that keep the engine blades from melting.
Two other Stanford researchers pioneered the use of MRI machines to gather this type of data, studying coral colonies and turbine blades. MRIs could be useful in puzzling out other fluid mixing problems, such as oil drilling, Benson says.
MRIs plumb the mysteries of jets.