LU News Archive

$69,000 Entergy grant for LU research zeroes in on efficiency

Xianchang Li, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Lamar University, will undertake groundbreaking work in modeling complex power generation systems with an eye to increasing efficiency thanks to a $69,000 grant from Entergy Charitable Foundation.

Li’s work, “Gas Turbine/Steam Turbine Modeling and Optimization” will seek to refine the performance and efficiency of a combined power system using both gas and steam turbines. The final goal is to maximize the power output or the thermal efficiency while considering the trade-offs in revenue, Li said.

“We are grateful to the Entergy Charitable Foundation for funding this research,” said Jack Hopper, dean of the College of Engineering and associate provost for research at Lamar. “Dr. Li’s research will increase our understanding of thermodynamics in this important area helping Entergy and other power generators increase efficiency to ultimately save resources and realize savings for their customers.”

“Entergy is dedicated to supporting certain key activities, including education and environmental initiatives,” said Sallie Rainer, Entergy Texas president and chief executive officer. “My predecessor, Joe Domino, was a vital link in obtaining this grant for the university and for good reason. The project clearly deserves a commitment from our company for the value of the work and because the partnership between Entergy Texas and Lamar is important to the welfare of Southeast Texas as a whole.”

A highly published researcher, Li, who holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Clemson University, joined Lamar’s faculty in 2006 after serving as a research scientist in the Energy Conversion & Conservation Center at the University of New Orleans.

To meet ever-growing demands for electrical power, highly reliable gas turbine engines are seeing increasing use in power plants. While the bulk of America’s electrical power is produced by steam turbines fueled by relatively cheap and abundant coal, more than 80 percent of power generating capacity installed in recent years is provided by gas turbines. The low efficiency of gas turbines due to high-temperature exhaust has lead to the development of two-stage systems where that exhaust is used to drive a steam turbine.  Known in the industry as a heat recovery steam generator, these systems can be quite complex, Li said.

In his research, Li will create computer modeling that will allow detailed thermal analysis of complex systems. Specifically, he will examine gas turbine inlet cooling, gas turbine blade cooling and off-design or partial load operations as ways to optimize designs for greater efficiency. Once Li’s baseline model is completed it can be customized to model specific power plants, he said.