The INL’s Research and Development program in Thermal Spray Processing is an integrated program consisting of both experimental and computational investigations of process physics and performance. Research topics include fundamental investigations of the chemistry, physics, and thermo-fluid dynamics of thermal plasma and combustion jets; plasma-particle interactions; process diagnostics; process control; and the fabrication, characteristics and performance of coatings. With the exception of enthalpy probe diagnostics the measurement techniques applied are noncontact and may be passive, utilizing light emitted by the plasma jet or entrained particles, or active, using lasers to interrogate particle behavior or specific chemical species in the plasma.
Theoretical investigations are conducted using an INL-developed Computational Fluid Dynamics Code (CFD) named LAVA. LAVA contains a very complete description of the physics and chemistry of high temperature plasma jets with entrained particles. In collaboration with the State University of New York at Stony Brook, LAVA has been significantly enhanced by the inclusion of a very detailed plasma-particle interaction and particle heating and melting model.
The INL maintains and operates a wide range of thermal spray devices representing a broad cross-section of commercially available guns as well as some in-house developed specialty devices as small as 5 kW and as large as 250 kW. Specific capabilities and current research interests are briefly described below. Research is housed in approximately 2400 sq. ft. of laboratory space dedicated to coatings fabrication and characterization, particle and process diagnostics, process control, and the development and application of advanced diagnostic techniques.
Funding for the fundamental aspects of the research program including fundamental studies, the development of diagnostic techniques, instrumentation, control, and computational tools are provided by the Office of Basic Engineering Sciences, Engineering Research program. Funding for the development of specific coatings, near net shape structures and processing protocols is provided by a variety of sources including the US DOE’s Fossil Energy Program, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Advanced Technology Program, and directly from industrial customers