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Gas turbine test centre aims to be world leader

28 Mawrth 2007

The School of Engineering is establishing a new Gas Turbine Research Centre bringing with it the prospect of cleaner power and a significant economic boost for Wales.

The Centre, at Port Talbot South Wales will be used for research aimed at improving the design of gas turbines and the testing of liquid and gaseous fuels by the University. It will also be available to companies on a commercial basis. Potential benefits include cleaner power generation and more efficient aircraft engines.

Cardiff’s new Centre is one of very few turbine testing facilities anywhere in the world and has features which make it unique. Its two test rigs can investigate combustion at temperatures of more than 900 degrees Kelvin. A system for sampling gases within the combustor gives it a unique capability for investigating pollutants.

The Centre will also support engineering companies who wish to conduct their own tests, bringing direct and indirect benefits to the South Wales economy. It is expected that over time a cluster of high-tech companies will be attracted to settle around the Centre’s home at Port Talbot’s ECM2 manufacturing, research and development centre.

The testing equipment was donated by technological research company QinetiQ, who selected the School of Engineering as the recipient ahead of several other contenders. The establishment of the Centre has also been supported by a £3.85m grant from the European Union’s Objective 1 Programme and £350,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government’s Knowledge Exploitation Fund.

The Centre has already secured its first two research contracts. The first is an EU programme led by QinetiQ to test alternative liquid and gas fuels while a second, industrially-sponsored, programme will study the formation of environmental pollutants.

Welsh Assembly Government First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: "What is being created at ECM2 Port Talbot is truly a world class energy research resource. It is already playing a key role in the testing and development of alternative energy sources and will become an increasingly important asset in the drive to reduce carbon emissions so as to combat global warming.

"I am very pleased the Assembly Government has been able to help secure this for Wales, it helps to build up the critical mass of industry orientated researchers in Wales. It will also benefit industries already based in Wales and could help attract a cluster of new research and development and production investment in the field of turbine and combustion technology."

Professor Phil Bowen, Chair in Energy Systems at the School of Engineering, said: "We are grateful to QinetiQ, the EU and the Welsh Assembly Government for helping bring a major research facility of international importance to Wales. The Gas Turbine Research Centre will allow us to contribute towards global and local target emission reduction, whilst bringing benefits to the local economy."

Kevin Brundish, Manager of QinetiQ's gas turbine technologies business, said: "Cardiff University School of Engineering was selected as the recipient of the two combustion rigs because of its expertise in combustion and optical measuring techniques."