Pratt & Whitney's Single Crystal Turbine Blade named historic mechanical engineering landmark

February 21, 2018

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has designated Pratt & Whitney's Single Crystal Turbine Blade as a historic mechanical engineering landmark, recognized for its progression in mechanical engineering and aviation. Pratt & Whitney is division of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX).

The single crystal turbine blade joins more than 260 ASME landmarks around the world, 10 of them being in Connecticut.

"The invention of the single crystal turbine blade enabled the industry-leading performance of our engines today in terms of efficiency, emissions and time between major overhauls," said Dave Carter, senior vice president, Engineering, at Pratt & Whitney. "Having this technology recognized by ASME is a testament to its impact on the aerospace industry."

The creation of the single crystal turbine blade began in the 1960s, when engineers Maurice (Bud) Shank and Frank VerSnyder at Pratt & Whitney led the effort to find a new turbine blade with higher strength and heat resistance. The original nickel alloy turbine blades were made of a metallic crystalline structure with grain boundaries, which are areas of weakness, making the components prone to fracture. The single crystal blade eliminated these crystalline boundaries entirely, exhibiting greatly improved resistance to fracture, three times better corrosion resistance and nine times better creep performance when compared to conventionally cast materials.

"The single crystal turbine blade is a most deserving addition to ASME's roster of mechanical engineering landmarks," said Charla K. Wise, president of ASME. "With this landmark, we recognize the engineering attributes of the single crystal blade, as well as the corporate effort of Pratt & Whitney to develop a technology that contributed to the advancement of the gas turbine industry."

About 8 million single crystal parts are cast annually for the aerospace industry. The first commercial aviation use of the new single crystal airfoils began in 1980 in the JT9D-7R4 jet engine powering the Boeing 747, McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 and Airbus A300 aircraft. The first production military use of single crystal airfoils began in 1983 with the P&W TF30 engine to power the F-111 and F-14 jet fighters as well as the F100 engine to power the F-15 and F-16 jet fighters.

Pratt & Whitney and ASME will celebrate the historical landmark designation on Feb. 21 at the New England Air Museum (NEAM) in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. A permanent display showcasing this technology will reside at the NEAM.