Cristiano Gatti of Teknowool on Solving Gas Turbine Insulation Challenges

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By Technical Services

August 15, 2019

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – tried and tested advice, BUT what if it is truly broken and compromising safety or efficiency?  Pyrogel insulation owes much of its early success to problem solving, responding to a frustrated call for a different outcome.  The story goes like this: solve the problem, the customer identifies additional areas for application, Pyrogel delivers, pains become gains, and Pyrogel displaces the incumbent insulation.

In this, the first in a series of blogs featuring members of our global team, we reached out to Cristiano Gatti, Aerogel Sales Manager at TeknoWool in Italy.  Based near the motorsport hub, Monza, Cristiano, like many of his compatriots, is passionate about motorsports in all forms.  Cristiano is also passionate about his day job – the ‘Pyrogel’ specialist.  Cristiano and Pyrogel insulation have become a ‘go to’ resource for many of his racing customers when they are faced with extreme thermal management problems on two or four wheels.  While the thrill of watching his customers exit the famed ‘Parabolica’ and accelerate to the checkered flag gives Cristiano immense satisfaction, he shared an example of an equally positive Pyrogel success story with one of his largest industrial customers.

Thermal insulation is critical to the safe and efficient operation of a modern gas turbine; it should not degrade during the normal and sometimes abnormal operation of the complex, and very expensive unit.  Areas of the turbine can reach up to 600°C, so the casing must be insulated uniformly to prevent unforeseen expansion and potentially catastrophic interference. Additionally, the touch temperature must be limited to 60°C at most to prevent the injury of operators or technicians.  There is, however, another critical criteria: space. Conventional high temperature insulation is bulky and gets in the way of the technicians assembling the instrumentation necessary to ensure safe operation.  Faced with this problem, the manufacturer reached out to Cristiano for a solution.  The challenge was considerable: thin and thermally efficient material was needed to insulate various parts of their gas turbine.  Pipe sections, valves, and a saddle in the turbine exhaust diffuser area all had an urgent demand for a space, energy, and cost saving solution.

Cristiano acted fast to identify a solution to this customer need. He had worked with Aspen Aerogels’®️ products before, and recognized its revolutionary approach to thermal insulation. To Cristiano, the solution to this puzzle was clear: Pyrogel insulation mapped well to the customer’s requests. So he followed his gut and reached out to Aspen.

He worked with Aspen Aerogels’ technical services team to carry out a feasibility study, which assessed Pyrogel’s suitability for the specific challenges identified by his customer.

In his experiment, the Pyrogel insulation was enclosed in a non-metallic, glass reinforced fabric jacketing to maintain functionality, even in the case of strong mechanical stress and post-prefabrication movement.

Once enclosed, removable Pyrogel pads were installed on high temperature (400 °C) valves, to protect nearby electric actuators from the extreme heat, and on low-temperature gas piping, in order to reduce the heat transfer to adjacent electrical cables.

To test the product’s range of applications, insulation panels were also installed to protect the electric junction box on the turbine’s lubricant tank. Additionally, on the support saddle of the machine exhaust diffuser (approximately 400°C), Cristiano’s team at TeknoWool engineered a complex grid of insulated jackets containing 40mm of Pyrogel insulation. The jackets covered the entire surface of the saddle to prevent the turbine exhaust’s heat from contacting the turbine’s lubricant tank. Without proper insulation, this risk could significantly increase the temperature of the lubricant contained inside and compromise the lubricant’s performance, leading to bearing failure.

In each of these cases, Pyrogel insulation performed with impressive success. “We studied the problem, evaluated the possible solutions, and it was clear to us that Pyrogel insulation would be—by far—the best solution to achieve the manufacturer’s goals,” he says. Cristiano’s innovative thinking demonstrated Pyrogel insulation’s ability to provide a complete solution through its thermal performance, versatility, rapid installation process, and durability. These unique properties allow our product to be an easily installed, reusable tool to protect the lifespan of assets.

Cristiano is an excellent ambassador for Pyrogel insulation (and Cryogel®️ insulation) in Italy; his product knowledge and drive to solve his customer’s toughest insulation challenges puts Cristiano at the front of the grid for customer service.

For additional information on this and other examples of Pyrogel insulation solving high temperature insulation’s toughest challenges, just drop us a line…..