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Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369

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Engineering Failure Analysis

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Gas turbine coatings An overview

R. Rajendran
Gas Turbine Research Establishment, CV Raman Nagar, Bangalore 560 093, India

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The components of a gas turbine operate in an aggressive environment where the temper-
Received 10 January 2012 ature of service varies from ambient to near melting point of materials which introduce a
Received in revised form 20 July 2012 variety of degradation on the components. Some components that lose their dimensional
Accepted 23 July 2012
tolerance during use require repair and refurbishment when high cost replacement is
Available online 31 August 2012
avoidable. Erosion of y ash and sand particles damages compressor blades which cause
engine failure at an early stage. Dovetail roots of the compressor blades are subjected to
fretting fatigue due to the oscillatory motion caused by vibration. Casing of the compressor
comes in contact with rotating blades due to shaft misalignment, ovality of the casing and
Characterization or inadequate clearance which cause blade and casing damage. Close clearance control that
has bearing on the efciency of the engine is therefore required in addition to preventing
re where titanium to titanium rubbing might occur. Wear out of the several contact sur-
faces which undergo rotating and reciprocating motion occur during the running of the
engine need protection. Hot gases that are produced by burning the contaminated fuel
in the combustion chamber will cause oxidation and corrosion on their passage. In the
hot section rotating and stationary components need thermal insulation from higher oper-
ating temperature leading to enhanced thermodynamic efciency of the engine. This wide
range of functional requirements of the engine is met by applying an array of coatings that
protect the components from failures. Current overview, while not aiming at deeper insight
into the eld of gas turbine coatings, brings out a summary of details of these coatings at
one place, methods of application and characterization, degradation mechanisms and
indicative future directions which are of use to a practicing industrial engineer.
2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356
2. Build up and repair coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356
3. Erosion resistant coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358
4. Anti-fretting coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359
5. Abradable coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359
6. Wear resistant coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 361
7. Oxidation and corrosion resistant coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 363
7.1. Diffusion coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 364
7.2. Overlay coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365
8. Thermal barrier coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365
9. Conclusions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 366

Tel.: +91 80 25040169; fax: +91 89 25241507.

E-mail addresses:,

1350-6307/$ - see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
356 R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369

Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 367
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 367

1. Introduction

When a substrate material has to be chosen for its bulk design properties that are in contradiction with the requirements
for its surface design properties, coating is applied to the substrate to meet its engineering requirement. The bulk material
provides necessary mechanical strength for the component. Coating protects the component effectively from a variety of
environmental degradation factors such as abrasion, erosion, wear, fretting, oxidation and corrosion. Surface modication
in terms of a coating material and a process for the application of it are chosen taking into account the environment in which
the component has to perform its intended function. There is no single coating that meets all the environmental degradation
The chemistry and process of the coating have to meet the functional requirements in terms of physical, mechanical,
chemical and environmental compatibilities. Coating can be applied on the component by either diffusion process or overlay
process. While diffusion process forms a good metallurgical bond with the substrate in terms of inter diffusion zone, overlay
thermal spray coating derives its strength from mechanical bonding. Electron Beam Physical Vapour Deposition (EB PVD),
which is kind of physical vapour deposition process, derives its strength from chemical bonding, whereas conventional phys-
ical vapour deposition gets its strength from mechanical locking. Diffusion process has advantages like forming thin coating
of a few microns, bulk processing possibility and hence is economically cheap. The greatest drawback of this process is that
there is no ne control over the chemistry of the coating. Overlay coatings can be done up to even 3 mm thickness. The
chemistry of the coating can be nely controlled by engineering the chemistry of the powder. The drawback is, it is line
of sight process and ne thickness control is not possible. Overlay coatings are also carried out on worn out component after
which machining is done on the component to meet the dimensional requirements as part of refurbishment process. Wear
out of the shaft makes the t lose at its bearing supports and seals. This is made up by chromium electroplating as it requires
a build up of a few microns of the material.
As the gas turbine is working in the most demanding environment [1], it uses a variety of coatings for its different com-
ponents. Fig. 1 shows the sketch of application of various types of coatings in a gas turbine. Erosion resistant coatings are
applied to the compressor blades and vanes. Anti-fretting coatings are used on the dovetail root of the compressor blade that
comes in contact with the disc during running. Abradable coatings are used in casings, tip coatings and seals. Diameter
adjustment coatings are applied to different parts of the engine. Gas turbine blades and vanes are protected by corrosion
and oxidation resistant coatings. Blades, vanes, ow path cowl, jet pipe liner and burner of the gas turbine are protected
by thermal barrier coatings. This overview presents an integrated approach on the selection of the coatings, their materials,
processes employed, characterization, performance and failure of various coatings.

2. Build up and repair coatings

Sometimes it is necessary to build up a worn out, damaged or mismatched component [2] for reuse instead of replacing
them. The coating thickness may vary anywhere from a few microns to 2.54 mm. The build up coating needs correct dimen-

Fig. 1. Metallurgical and high temperature coatings in a gas turbine.

R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369 357

sional tolerance and it has to comply with surface smoothness requirements. The rule of thumb is to use a build up material
similar to that of a base material. If dissimilar materials are to be used, the properties of the coating should be similar to that
of the substrate in terms of both co-efcient of thermal expansion and resistance to galvanic coupling. Build up coatings have
a variety of compositions such as iron based and nickel based materials. The preferred deposition processes is air plasma
spraying (APS) as well as high velocity oxy fuel (HVOF) coating due to their higher bond strength. Fig. 2a shows the micro-
structure of Amdry 625 (Ni21.5Cr9Mo3.6 (Cb + Ta) 2.5Fe) Sulzer Metco power. The powder particle is produced through gas
atomization process, has a spheroidal shape with a size of is 90 + 45 lm [3]. Plasma sprayed Amdry 625 to a thickness of
948 lm on a titanium-64 compressor third stage disc inner diameter for build up to make up the wear is shown in Fig. 2b.
Porosity of the Amdry 625 coating was less than 1.2%, unmelted particle was less than 0.5%. The HV0.3 average hardness was
625 and the bond strength was 36 MPa. Fig. 3a shows the feedstock of Metco 450 (Ni5Al) Sulzer Metco powder. The particle
size is 90 + 45 lm with clad morphology. The Ni5Al powder that was produced through gas atomized route is shown in
Fig. 3b. After plasma spraying on titanium-64, the Ni5%Al coating is shown in Fig. 3c. The hardness of the coating was Rb 82.
Thermal spray process provides typically a thickness of near about 10lm for every pass of the torch. Therefore, it is not
possible to apply it where the build up of materials is of the order of a few microns. In such cases electroplating is done on
the component wherein a ne control of the thickness of the coating is possible with good adhesion strength. Fig. 4 shows
the microstructure of chromium electroplated bearing steel for a thickness of 12 lm.

Fig. 2a. Microstructure of feedstock of Amdry 625 powder.



Fig. 2b. Microstructure of Amdry 625 plasma sprayed coating.

358 R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369

Fig. 3a. Microstructure of Metco 450 mechanically clad.

Fig. 3b. Microstructure of Metco 450 gas atomized powder.



Fig. 3c. Microstructure of Metco 450 (Ni5Al) plasma sprayed coating.

3. Erosion resistant coatings

Erosion is an incremental material loss from a solid surface due to mechanical interaction between that surface and a uid
or solid particles [4]. It is caused by impinging solid particles or water droplets. The compressor of gas turbine aero engine
are prone to performance losses due to erosion of the compressor blades when being operated in regions with dusty and
sandy atmosphere and when sand, y ash, salt and ice crystals or volcanic ashes are ingested [5]. Erosion resistant coatings
prevent compressor blades from premature loss of material. Erosion resistant coatings are built over a bond coat. The multi-
layered top TiNTi coating has a typical layer thickness of 3 lm. The overall thickness of alternate layer of ceramic and mate-
rials is 25 lm [6]. During impact of a solid particle the brittle ceramic layer cracks but its propagation is arrested by the soft
metallic layer. Typical Vickers hardness of the coating is 28003200 and the operating temperature range is 60 C to
R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369 359



100 m

Fig. 4. Build up of bearing housing and seal by chromium plating.

600 C. The inuence of ductile interlayer material on the particle erosion resistance of multilayer magnetron sputtered,
physical vapour deposited (MS PVD) coating for AM355 steel were investigated [7] to bring out that the hardest coating
TiN/Zr multilayer exhibited worst ductility and TiN/Nb coating provided the best ductility in most conditions. TiN/Ti coatings
showed best ductility against the alumina particles [8].

4. Anti-fretting coatings

Fretting is an accelerated surface damage that occurs at the interface of contacting materials subjected to small radial
oscillatory motions combined with centrifugal load [9,10]. The amplitude of the oscillatory motion is of the order of tens
of microns [11]. Compressor blades of gas turbine undergo centrifugal forces during running. These centrifugal forces in
combination with vibratory load cause fretting motion between the dovetail joint of the compressor blade and the disc.
As the material is removed from the contacting areas pits and grooves (galling) are left on them [12]. The debris that is
trapped between the contact areas gets oxidized to become harder than the contact material. This in turn introduces micro-
cracks on the fretting surfaces which form the locations for fatigue crack initiation. The factors that affect the severity of fret-
ting are atmosphere, temperature, load, amplitude, fretting cycles, frequency of oscillations and hardness. In inert
atmosphere, metals that are less prone to oxidation the fretting rate is slow. As humidity can act as lubricant between
the parts that come in contact, it retards the fretting damage. At higher temperature, the rate of oxidation with oxygen be-
comes higher that accelerates fretting damage. Increasing load, fretting cycle and amplitude increase the fretting rate. Fret-
ting wear comes down as the hardness of the material is increased. At higher fretting frequencies, fretting life is less [9].
Shot peening, which is the process of the material surface with special steel shot, glass or ceramic beads, has been used for
the purpose of producing plastic yielding and residual stress at the surface which improves fretting fatigue resistance. Sev-
eral authors have worked on the effect of shot peening on the fretting fatigue life [13,14].
A typical compressor blade root has copper nickel indium (Cu 38Ni or Cu 36Ni 5 In) anti-fretting coating on its contact
surfaces of the dovetail root [15] that had undergone shot peening. Over and above that, a polymer bonded molybdenum
disulphide (commercially known as Molydag) thin lm of near about 15 lm thickness having a co-efcient of friction
0.07 is provided for additional lubrication [16]. The thickness of anti-fretting copper nickel indium coating varies from 13
to 100 lm [17,18]. Typical bond strength of the coating is 20 MPa with a hardness of 48Rb. The manufacturing routes for
the anti-fretting coating are atmospheric plasma spray, combustion powder spray and arc spray. Attainable porosity level
is 0.5% and surface roughness for as sprayed coating is 510 lm Ra and after grinding/lapping is 23 lm.

5. Abradable coatings

Abradable coatings are applied to the rubbing surface of the casing of the rotating components of the gas turbine to min-
imize the clearance between casing and the rotating part to have enhanced gas turbine efciency [19]. At rotating speeds of
the order of 10,000 rpm, rotating blade tip may rub against the stationary casing, due to either thermal expansion, misalign-
ment or rotation induces strains [20,21]. Abradable seals act as sacricial layers between the blades and the casing and are
soft enough to avoid signicant wear to blade tips, thus allowing much smaller clearances. In case of compressor bearings,
the inner race is coated with abradables for reducing friction [22]. High temperature abradable seals are used in high pres-
sure gas turbine of jet engines [23]. In the absence of abradable seals, the cold clearance between the blade tips and shrouds
become large enough to prevent signicant contact during operation [20]. When the blade impacts over the surface of an
abradable coating, its tip strikes the coating particles which are protruding over the surface of the coating. The force of im-
pact drives the individual particle into the coating. As the stored elastic energy of the abradable coating is more than its
adhesion strength, it rebounds and debonds. The ejected debris, that is higher in volume because of the newly created free
360 R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369

surface is typically of the size less than 100 lm and has to escape through the rough blade tips. In changing thermal envi-
ronment of the compressor with titanium material systems, rubbing of blade must release particulate matter without endan-
gering a re or debris impacting down stream components [24]. Surface speed of a blade tip is given as the angular velocity
x (2p times the number of rotations of the blade per second) multiplied by the radial distance from the axis of rotation to the
tip of the blade. For surface speeds of the blades less than 100 m/s, the blades expel the chips forward, for surface speeds
above 100 m/s expelled particles are released backward. As thicker blade tips trap materials and destroy interface, the blade
tip needs to be within 13 mm. For enhanced abradability, the energy for particle detachment must be reduced. Abradable
coating will therefore have small matrix particles, a polymer or a fugitive phase to generate porosity and solid lubricants or
release agents to act as dislocators within the coating. During thermal spray deposition, the polymer phase lowers the coat-
ing stresses, thereby allowing the deposition of thick coatings. When the polymer phase is burnt-out in a subsequent heat
treatment of the coating, porosity is introduced in places where polymer phase was present which further improves the
abradability of the coatings.
As abradable coatings must inherently porosity for their desired abradability and low bond strength, the base material of
the gas turbine component has to be protected from corrosion and high temperature oxidation [25,26]. In addition to that,
the abradable coatings are not self bonding. Dimensional restoration of the casings is at times required before going for
abradable coating. In order to overcome these shortcomings, a dense bond coat, typically Ni5Al intermetallic is provided
on the substrate over which the required functional abradable coating is sprayed. Ni5Al bond coat is sprayed with a poros-
ity that is less than 2%, bond strength of typically 20 MPa, service temperature limit of 800 C and a surface roughness of
3.6 lm after grinding. The recommended coating processes are APS, combustion plasma spray and HVOF [27].
The selection of a particular type of abradable coating primarily depends on the application temperature of the coating
[23]. Aluminium silicon polyester abradables are used at the titanium compressor casings of the engine for temperatures up
to 325 C (due to the temperature limitation of polymer in the abradable) [28]. The porosity level desired is 2% with a cor-
responding supercial Rockwell Hardness HR15Y of 4050. AlSiBN is used for titanium alloys up to a temperature of
480 C (due to the temperature limitation of aluminium in the abradable) [28]. The porosity level desired is 1520% with
a corresponding supercial Rockwell Hardness HR15Y of 4050. Combustion spray of abradable coating can produce very
high porosity that gets compacted during machining. APS and HVOF give coating of desired porosity through process control
parameters [29].
For temperature applications up to 760 C, Ni or Co based alloy powders are commonly used as the basis of the abradable
coating matrix [30]. Polymeric materials which generate porosity in the coating act as release agents are added to the base
material to make it abradable. Ceramic abradables are used for temperatures above 760 C. The most widely used material is
yttria stablized zirconia (YSZ) which is usually mixed with a fugitive polymer phase. The blade is reinforced with abrasive
grits such as cubic boron nitride (cBN). Abradable that can operate at temperatures above 900 C and be used without abra-
sive blade tip treatments was invented by GE as Alstom GT54 coating [31]. Typically, the thickness of the bond coat goes up
to 125 lm and the abradable coat each go up to 1000 lm.
The bond strength of the coating is obtained as per ASTM C633 (01)-2008 [32]. The erosion resistance of the coating is
obtained in accordance with GE E50TF121CL-A specication [23]. In this test, a weight quantity of 600 g of alumina particles
of 50 lm impinges on a coated surface at a 20 angle at a stand off of 100 mm. The deepest point of erosion is measured with
a ball point micrometer and the GE erosion number is calculated as
Test time s
Erosion number 1
Depth of Erosion in:  1000
The GE erosion number is expressed in s/mil and represents the time in seconds necessary to erode 25.4 lm of the coating
thickness. A higher GE erosion number means better erosion resistance. A study on the correlation between coating hardness
and GE erosion brought out that erosion limit of 2 s/mil is the lower acceptable limit for abradables [33]. An abradable coat-
ing that has a hardness of 3040 at HR 15Y scale gives a GE erosion number of 4 which is a compromise between abradability
and strength of the coating for titanium based alloys. An inverse correlation between hardness and porosity was observed
[34] for abradable coatings from which it can be said that hardness, porosity, and GE erosion number are interrelated.
The rate at which the rotating blade penetrates into the abradable coating is called incursion speed. While the blade tip
speed can be determined with certainty, the incursion speeds are difcult to determine. Wear maps that validate the correct
abradability under a range of blade tip speed, incursion rate and temperature are generated for the abradable coating with
Sulzer Metco high temperature abradability test rig [35]. These wear maps give great insight into the blade wear mechanism
at the specied blade tip speed and percentage porosity of the abradable at a given temperature [35]. Wear map results
when examined along with the coating microstructures help in determining the ideal abradability to meet the specic design
requirements. However, for reasons like time and economy, abradability tests are not routinely carried out at laboratory
Elastic modulus and Poissons ratio are the basic properties that are required for numerical modeling of the elastic re-
sponse of the abradable coating. The elastic modulus of the coating is obtained by two layer beam method [20,36]. The elas-
tic modulus of the commonly used bond coat Ni5Al for the abradable coating is much higher (typically 256 GPa [20]) than
that of the abradable itself. The elastic modulus for Metco 601 (5% porosity) is 2.1 GPa, Metco 308 is 3.95 GPa (15% porosity),
Metco 313 is 3.1 GPa (8% porosity) [14]. The corresponding HR 15 Y values are 6070, 6570 and 6575 respectively. The
calculated Poissons ratio using nite element analysis varies from 0.23 to 0.3 [37].
R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369 361

6. Wear resistant coatings

Wear and corrosion resistant coatings are most frequently based on transition metal carbides (WC, TiC, Mo2C, TaC, NbC,
Cr3C2) and their alloys (NiCoCrAlY) and some hard oxides (Al2O3, TiO2, Cr2O3) [3234,3840]. They are usually applied by
APS, detonation process and HVOF. Pure carbide powders cannot be melted at high temperatures and deposited even at high
enthalpy plasma jets. This is due to the reason that at such high temperatures, oxidation, decarburization and thermal
decomposition generally occur. Therefore carbide particles are embedded into easily melted binder materials with high duc-
tility such as Ni, Co, Cr and their mixtures and alloys respectively. Such composite coatings are usually known as cermets.
Tungsten carbides are used at temperatures below 540 C and chromium carbides are applied up to 815 C [41]. Thermally
sprayed WCCo coatings having high hardness and good adhesion with substrate exhibit satisfactory wear resistance [34].
Al2O3TiO2 coatings are composed of TiO2 as reinforcement in the Al2O3 matrix [42]. The Al2O3 matrix distributes the stres-
ses in the composite material homogeneously whereas TiO2 mechanically reinforces the material. This type of coating is pre-
pared by blending the matrix with the reinforcement during powder production and by plasma spraying [36] and can take
temperatures up to 1100 C [16]. The microstructure of the WC17Co powder (commercially known as Sulzer Metco Diam-
alloy 2005 NS) is shown in Fig. 5a. The powder is spray dried and sintered to a particle size of 53 + 11 lm.
A WC17Co coating on the Amdry 625 build up coating on the Ti-64 substrate is shown in Fig. 5b. The Amdry 625 coating
was rst applied on the component to build up the worn out dimension to 948 lm. The WC17Co coating is in general dense

Fig. 5a. Microstructure of feedstock of diamalloy 2005 (WC17Co).

Ti-64 substrate

Amdry 625
948 m

462 m

Fig. 5b. The two layer coat of Amdry 625 and diamalloy 2005 (WC17Co) on Ti-64.
362 R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369

with porosity less than 1.3% and unmelted particles less that 0.2%. The thickness of the coating was 462 lm and its bond
strength was 36 MPa with a microhardness of 1187 Hv0.3. A magnied view of the WC17 Co coating is shown in Fig. 5c
where oxide inclusion is seen. The XRD patterns of diamalloy 2005 powder and coating are shown in Fig. 5d. As it is evidently
observed from [17], the WC and Co phases present in the powder were preserved in the coating.
Nanostructured wear resistant coatings provide superior hardness, toughness and wear resistance [43]. This is because
the fracture toughness and hardness have inverse relation with the square root of the grain size (HallPetch effect) [44].
A grain size below which (typically of the order of 10 nm) the material becomes amorphous by loosing its crystalline nature
is the limiting point beyond material softening takes place due to inverse HallPetch effect. The HallPetch effect breaks
down at a critical grain size below which the grains are not able to support dislocation pile ups [45]. The HallPetch slope
becomes negative below this critical grain size. Nanoparticles cannot be successfully thermal sprayed because of their low
mass and their inability to be carried (momentum which is mass multiplied by the velocity of the powder particle is less) in a
moving gas stream and deposited on a substrate. In order to make use of conventional thermal spray units that are commer-
cially available, nanosized particles are agglomerated with a binder followed by certain degree of sintering for making feed-


Fig. 5c. Microstructure of diamalloy 2005 coating substrate.

Fig. 5d. XRD of diamalloy 2005 powder and coating.

R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369 363

stock. Typically, conventionally HVOF sprayed feed WC17Co powder has a particle size of 53 + 11 lm whereas agglom-
erated nanopowder 45 + 5 lm. The grain size of the nanopowder is 100500 nm [46]. While using conventional plasma
spray systems, critical plasma spray parameters such as torch temperature, particle temperature and particle loading effect
(which are essentially voltage and current of the torch and ow rate of the argon gas) are obtained through robust process
control, optimization of properties and quality control [47].

7. Oxidation and corrosion resistant coatings

High temperature components of gas turbine are exposed to a wide range of thermal and mechanical loads in addition to
an oxidizing and corrosive environment that may contain contaminant such as chlorides, sulphates and erosive particles.
Aluminium and chromium contents are kept at a reduced level (512% and 3.45% respectively [4850]) in superalloys in
order to obtain their desired high temperature strength and microstructural stability. This situation leads to a fall in oxida-
tion and corrosion resistance of the material. Therefore appropriate coatings are applied to protect the surface of the com-
ponent from oxidation and corrosion.
Before going into the details of the various coatings, a brief introduction to the operating mechanism of oxidation and
corrosion is appropriate. When the gas turbine materials are exposed to oxygen and oxygen containing gases at elevated
temperatures, they convert some or all of the metallic elements into oxides [51]. The oxides create a protective phase that
remains adherent and form Thermally Grown Oxides (TGOs) on the metallic coatings by reacting with hot gases. TGO serves
as a diffusion barrier to the next oxide. Some of the coatings such as Cr2O3 protects up to 871 C while Al2O3 protects at all
temperatures up to the melting point of the blade alloy [52]. In order to form adequate thickness of Al2O3 in a reasonable
time, sufciently high temperatures are required. Without the protective oxide, the coating is exposed to rapid environmen-
tal degradation of its microstructure. A protective scale can be maintained when aluminium, silicon or chromium does not
fall below a critical level of 45% weight [53]. The TGO can be removed by the erosion of the particles from the hot gases. A
rapid spallation of the TGO can also be caused by diffusion of oxygen into the coating. Presence of impurities in the hot gas
like sulphur can cause the disruption and spallation of the TGO. Yttrium or hafnium is added to the coating to improve the
adherence of aluminium or chromium oxides to the coating.
Hot corrosion takes place in a gas turbine due to the presence of contaminants such as Na2SO4, NaCl and V2O5 in the gases
that combine to form molten deposits which damage the protection surface oxides. Hot corrosion is divided into two types:
Type I which is High Temperature Hot Corrosion (HTHC) and Type II which is Low temperature Hot Corrosion (LTHC). LTHC is
observed mainly within the temperature range of 650800 C [54]. It forms typical pitting, resulting from the formation of
mixture of Na2SO4CoSO4 with low melting temperatures (the melting temperature of Na2SO4CoSO4 eutectic is 540 C).
Similarly, the formation of Na2SO4NiSO4 eutectics from the nickel takes place at a temperature of 670 C [55]. A high partial
pressure of SO3 in the gas phase is required for LTHC reaction to occur in contrast to HTHC. The localized nature of attack is
related to the localized failure of scale as a result of local chloride attack, thermal cycle or erosion. As opposed to Type I cor-
rosion, Type II corrosion has neither incubation period nor microscopic sulphidation, only chromium depletions are in gen-
eral observed [56,57].
HTHC or Type I corrosion is observed within the temperature range of 850950 C [56,57]. HTHC starts with the conden-
sation of fused alkali metal salts on the surface of the component which attacks the protective oxide lm and progresses to
deplete the chromium element from the coating. With chromium depletion, oxidation of the coating accelerates and porous
scale begins to form. The presence of sodium chloride removes the incubation period which is otherwise typical of HTHC.
K2SO4 behaves in the same way as Na2SO4 with regard to HTHC. When Vanadium, which is an unavoidable contaminant
in certain liquid fuels, comes in contact with components exposed to high temperature, accelerated hot corrosion occurs
[56]. Extremely aggressive liquid phase of vanadium forms at temperatures as low as 535 C, depending on the ratio between
Na and V [56]. In addition to their own relative low melting, the vanadium compounds markedly increase the solubility of
oxide when mixed with Na2SO4 [58]. The macroscopic appearance of HTHC is characterized by severe peeling of the coating
and by signicant colour changes (green tone resulting from the formation of NiO) in the area of accelerated attack [51,58].
Oxidation and corrosion resistant coatings are applied to the gas turbine engine components through two broad methods
[59,60]: They are: (1) diffusion coating and (2) overlay coatings [60]. For diffusion coating, an inter diffusion zone is formed
between the substrate and the coating whereas for overlay coating no such zone is formed. Diffusion coating is formed by
diffusion of one or more elements into the surface of the metal to be protected. Typical diffusion coatings are simple alumi-
nide and platinum or chromium modied aluminide. Overlay coatings are coatings of specic composition applied as add
on to the surface to be protected by plasma spray or physical vapour deposition. Typical overlay coatings are MCrAlX type
where M is usually nickel or cobalt; X is Y, Si, Ta, Hf, etc. which is mostly less than 1% by weight.
The selection of appropriate coating composition depends on the environment of the coating and the substrate they are
applied on. Because of the complex interaction between the environment, coating and substrate, compromises between the
mechanical strength, oxidation/corrosion resistance and adhesion are inevitable. It is relevant here to take a look at the role
of each element of the high temperature oxidation and corrosion resistant coatings [61]. Nickel is the base element for over-
lay coatings on Ni base substrates to minimize the interdiffusion. Nickel minimizes the chemical activity of aluminium. Co-
balt is the base element for overlay coatings on Co base substrates to minimize the interdiffusion. Cobalt raises the chemical
activity of aluminium. Aluminium forms Al2O3 in coatings and Ni and Co based superalloys which protects against oxidation
364 R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369

up to 1200 C and also is a c0 former in c/c0 Ni based superalloys. Chromium forms Cr2O3 that protects against hot corrosion
and oxidation up to 900 C. It also reduces the critical level of Al needed to form protective Al2O3. Silicon forms SiO2 and is
effective against Low Temperature Hot Corrosion. Silicon promotes the formation of Al2O3 in NiAl alloys. Silicon signi-
cantly improves cyclic oxidation resistance, however it also decreases the melting point of the coating [62]. A wt% of 5 of
Si is adequate to lower the melting temperature to about 1140 C. There is also evidence that it affects phase stability.
For cyclic oxidation at 1000 C, 2.5 wt.% Si was found to be the optimum content. Further additions were observed to be det-
rimental. Yttrium improves adherence of Al2O3 and Cr2O3 scales on Ni and Co base alloys. It changes the oxide growth from
cation to anion diffusion and reduces the oxidation rate of Cr2O3. Hafnium improves adherence of in situ grown Al2O3 and
Cr2O3 scales. Platinum delays transformation of b-NiAl into c0 -Ni3Al in aluminides, which improves the high temperature
oxidation resistance. Tantalum strengthens the solid solution of c and c0 phases, reduces interdiffusion of Ni, improves oxi-
dation and hot corrosion resistance and reduces thermal expansion coefcient. Titanium accelerates formation of Cr2O3 at
metal/oxide interface and reduces thermal expansion coefcient in Ni base alloys [63].
The degradation mechanism for both diffusion and overlay coatings is the transformation of b-NiAl at the coating-sub-
strate interface to c0 -Ni3Al and its outward growth to the top surface. The coating is said to have lived its life once the trans-
formation of the b-NiAl to c0 -Ni3Al is complete across the thickness of the coating.

7.1. Diffusion coatings

Diffusion coatings produce a corrosion/oxidation resistant thermally grown oxide by enriching the surface either with Al,
Cr or Si through diffusion. They have homogeneous microstructure with good thermomechanical properties and they are ap-
plied using chemical vapour deposition (CVD) process which includes pack cementation, slurry cementation and various
forms of gas phase coating. Diffusion coatings are based on intermetallic compound b-NiAl. In diffusion coating, the super-
alloy components to be coated is cleaned, masked and placed in a retort reaction chamber. They are then immersed in a
pack containing aluminium or pre-alloyed powder known as donor alloy, a halide energizer (NH4Cl) that transport the alu-
minium from the pack to the components to be coated and an inert oxide dilutant (Al2O3) to prevent pack sintering. The
retort is heated to the required temperature under an inert gas or hydrogen atmosphere to prevent subsequent oxidation
Diffusion aluminide coatings are classied as inward or high activity and outward or low activity. In low activity/out-
ward process where the aluminium content is low, formation of coating occurs mainly by Ni diffusion and results in the di-
rect formation of NiAl. The temperature of the process is 10001100 C. These coatings are also subjected to a subsequent
diffusion treatment for 4 h [65]. In service, the interdiffusion with the substrate is very limited and the gradient of alumin-
ium in b is low [60,62]. In high activity/inward process, where the aluminium content is high, the formation of the coating
occurs mainly by the inward diffusion of aluminium and results in the formation of d-Ni2Al3 and possibly b-NiAl at temper-
ature range of 700950 C. There is high aluminium concentration in the coating and also signicant interdiffusion in the
substrate during service. The d-Ni2Al3 coating that is formed during inward process is then further transformed into a b-NiAl
coating by a subsequent diffusion treatment at 1080 C for 4 h [65]. Aluminide coatings lack ductility below 750 C. In high
activity coatings, aluminium ingress into the alloy is more rapid and the coating thus formed incorporates other phases and
elements from the alloy. This inhomogeneity tends to adversely affect oxidation resistance properties when compared with
low activity coatings, where substantial outward diffusion of nickel is also involved in the reaction [66].
Nickel aluminide coatings suffer from strong interdiffusion with the substrate that forms c0 at the expense of b-NiAl.
Introduction of diffusion barrier is done through platinum aluminide coatings. The blades and vanes of the turbine are elec-
troplated with platinum for a thickness of 510 mm [67] and given diffusion heat treatment at about 1000 C for 5 h in an
argon atmosphere [68] after which they are pack aluminized. Because platinum modied aluminide coatings can increase
the life of blades up to three times [69], the cost of platinum electroplating is easily compensated. A platinum aluminide
coating without prior platinum diffusion process contains PtAl2 which is rich in aluminium reservoir with trace of Ni2Al3
[70]. The phases present in the platinum aluminide coating on CM247LC DS blade without prior Pt diffusion is shown in
Fig. 6a [71]. The diffusion treatment of platinum electroplating allows enriching the superalloy surface with platinum, which
form a b-NiAl phase with platinum in substitution, that is, b-(Ni, Pt) Al phase during aluminizing. Electroplated platinum
after heat treatment goes down in its weight percentage to as low as 47% with an increase in thickness of nearly up to ve
times and the diffusion of Ni, Co, Cr and Al [72]. However, during aluminizing treatment, the intermetallic compound PtAl2 is
also observed which modies the mechanical properties of the coating [73]. Aluminizing temperature in platinum aluminide
coating should be controlled so as to avoid precipitation of secondary harmful phases such as l and R. Furthermore, the ini-
tial platinum electroplating thickness inuences the percentage of platinum and nickel in the aluminized coating.
Platinum promotes selective oxidation [7477]. It acts as a catalyst promoting the reaction between O and Al to form a-
Al2O3 possibly by increasing the dissociation rate of O2, thus decreasing the rate for continuous a-Al2O3 to form [76]. It im-
proves the adhesion between the coating and the substrate [73,75] by suppressing the formation of coating-Al2O3 interface
[7880] and aids the retention of Al within the interdiffusion zone, suppressing the deleterious spinal formation, preventing
both nucleation of oxides and the reaction transformed spinals and the nucleation of spinals itself [66], delays bc transfor-
mation [81], cd, ha Al2O3 phase transformation [82], lowers the scale growth [81,83], remains most concentrated at the
coating gas interface thereby retarding the diffusion of certain refractory elements to the coating-Al2O3 interface which leads
to improved isothermal (and cyclic) oxidation resistance, improves oxidation resistance when compared with conventional
R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369 365






40 50 60 70 80

Fig. 6a. The phases present in the platinum aluminide coating on DS CM247 LC blade without prior platinum diffusion [71].




DS CM247LC substrate

Fig. 6b. Degradation of platinum aluminide coating in service [71].

oxidation resistant coatings due to increase scale adherence and cracking resistance [84,85]. The microstructure of platinum
aluminide coating that has degraded and cracked to a major extent after aluminium depletion is shown in Fig. 6b [71].
Chromium aluminide coatings are developed by rst pack chromizing at 1060 C for 40 min followed by a high activity
pack aluminizing at 750 C for 3 h followed by usual diffusion heat treatment for high activity process [65].

7.2. Overlay coatings

For protection against Type II hot corrosion about 2540% of chromium is required whereas for Type I hot corrosion pro-
tection usually 1220% of chromium is recommended [86]. Overlay coatings with 1822% Cr and 812% Al are designed to
withstand corrosion above 900 C [87]. CoCrAlY alloy coatings with 1722% Cr and 1012% Al have the resistance to attack at
high temperature, but not with most severe salt environment. For low temperature corrosion protection, CoCrAlY alloy with
2535% chromium level is required for maximum protection [88]. The application of MCrAlY coatings is limited to 1100 C
because of relatively thick oxide scales which are formed, followed by enhanced local spallation particularly when thermal
cycling is encountered [89,90]. Greater amount of cobalt controls Type I hot corrosion while greater amount of nickel gives
higher ductility [88,91]. Overlay coatings are applied through various processes like APS, HVOF, Low Pressure Plasma Spray
(LPPS) and Electron Beam Physical Vapour Deposition (EB PVD). HVOF coating gives denser microstructure than APS. LPPS
gives superior microstructure and mechanical properties but is expensive.

8. Thermal barrier coatings

Thermal barrier coatings (TBCs) are two layer (duplex) coating systems which comprise of an oxidation and corrosion
resistant inner layer caller bond coat and an insulating ceramic outer layer called top coat [9295]. The bond coat serves
two purposes: (1) it protects the metallic substrate from the ingression of hot gases and their attack on the substrate; (2) it
serves as an intermittent layer that gives better adhesion between the substrate and the top coat. As a detailed discussion
was made on the oxidation and corrosion resistant coating in the preceding section, focus in this section is made only on the
insulating ceramic coat with barest minimum reference to the bond coat. The TBC system will have a Thermally Grown Oxide
366 R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369

(TGO) that forms between the bond coat and the top coat. This TGO is the a-Al2O3 that forms a protective layer on the bond
coat to prevent the inner surface of it from further oxidation. The TGO is grown to 23 lm on the bond coat before the appli-
cation of the ceramic top coat by a suitable heat treatment process to enhance the adhesion of the latter on the former [96].
The TGO in some cases is grown during the ceramic coat deposition [97]. The growth of the TGO to a thickness of 810 lm
during the service condition leads to spallation of the TBC [98]. The growth of TGO is controlled mainly by the inward ingres-
sion of oxygen anions, rather than the outward diffusion of cations [94]. Ingression of oxygen towards the top coat/bond coat
interface can occur by two mechanisms, namely oxygen gaseous permeation through the network or interconnected cracks
and voids of the top coat or oxygen diffusion thorough the lattice. Over the range of operating temperatures of TBCs, oxygen
transport through the top coat by permeation is expected to dominate. However, the rate of TGO thickening is cubic with
respect to time and is largely controlled by the oxygen diffusion through the TGO itself. The TGO with its very high elastic
modulus (360 GPa) undergoes thermal stress cycle during every run of the gas turbine due to the large mismatch of its co-
efcient of thermal expansion (8  106 K1) with the bond coat (typically 17  106 K1) which contributes to its cracking
as its thickness grows [99]. With TBC, the operation temperature of the turbine blade can be increased to beyond its sub-
strate melting temperature [94]. By the application of TBC the operating temperature goes up by 70150 C without any in-
crease in metal temperature. Conversely, TBCs have the ability to reduce the mass ow of the coolant while maintaining the
operating temperature of the turbine [99]. TBC systems typically consist of yttria stablized zirconia (YSZ) top layer, which has
low thermal conductivity that is almost constant with increasing temperature, is chemically inert in combustion atmo-
spheres and has a co-efcient of thermal expansion which is reasonably compatible with nickel based superalloys [100]. Se-
ven percent partially YSZ is used as the TBC material because it retains its metastable tetragonal phase up to 1200 C without
any phase transformation. TBCs are sprayed either by APS or by Electron Beam Physical Vapour Deposition (EB PVD) [101]. At
25 C, the thermal conductivity of APS coatings varies from 0.8 to 1.0 W/m K whereas EB PVD coatings vary from 1.5 to
1.9 W/m K. Therefore APS coatings provide superior thermal insulation. But the spallation resistance of EB PVD coatings is
810 times more than that of APS coatings due to the superior in plane compliance of EB PVD coating [102,103]. La2Zr2O7
has a co-efcient of thermal conductivity that is close to APS 7%YSZ. But La2Zr2O7 has a co-efcient of thermal expansion
(9  106 K1) that is less than that of 7%YSZ (1011  106 K1) which leads to higher thermal stresses from thermal expan-
sion mismatch [104109].
The powders that are used for 7%YSZ consist of mostly spherical particles, but with some slightly distorted spheres [94]. A
spherical geometry is benecial for good ow in the powder feed line, which in turn can lead to high feed and deposition
rate. The mean particles sizes of the powder are 3070 lm. Narrow particle size distribution and low population of micro-
particles are preferred to avoid nozzle build up [102]. The presence of many ne microcracks and pores in the APS micro-
structure results in low stiffness that prevents large stress from being generated on the top coat. As APS is cheaper than
EB-PVD, and has reasonable strain tolerance due to the microcracks and pores, it is applied for many gas turbine components
such as combustion chambers, nozzle guides and abradable seals. Columnar growth microstructure of EB PVD TBC is applied
on rotating components such as blades due to its higher strain tolerance [110,111].
Columnar coating morphology of EB PVD has higher thermal conductivity than the splat morphology of APS which leads
to greater radiation of heat transport of the former than the latter. The characteristic columnar structure of EB-PVD coatings
does not hinder thermal transport in the through-thickness direction, since most of the porosity in the form of voids and
interspaces is aligned parallel to the direction of heat ux. Modication of this pore architecture, however, might lead to
thermal conductivities comparable to that of APS YSZ TBCs [102].
Youngs modulus of as-sprayed APS TBC between 8 and 12 GPa when measured by cantilever bending whereas by nan-
oindentation it was 146 GPa [94]. This is because, nanoindentation gives the hardness of the individual splat whereas can-
tilever beam bending gives the aggregate of the splates, microcracks and pores. Youngs modulus of EB PVD TBC that was
measured through nanoindentation was reported to be was between 230 and 250 GPa [112]. The temperature of the sub-
strate that is desired for good adhesion of EB PVD coating is 0.47 times the melting temperature of the coating material
[113]. Substrate rotation is required during EB-PVD to obtain sufcient inter- and intracolumnar porosity. The porosity range
of APS 7%YSZ is 1020% [114]. This pore volume fraction is desirable from the point of view that strain tolerance is achieved
with minimum thermal conductivity as lower pore percentage leads to higher thermal conductivity [102] and less strain tol-
erance. The Poissons ratio for the TGO is 0.22, bond coat is 0.3 and the TBC is 0.22 [115].
Nano-TBC is obtained by synthesizing nanostructured 7%YSZ powders to microagglomerates so as to make feedstock that
is suitable for being fed and thermally sprayed using conventional powder feeders or through solution precursor technique
[116]. Nano-TBC through agglomerated powder route showed low elastic modulus, high thermal diffusivity and low sinter-
ing effects. Solution precursor plasma spray TBCs were deposited up to 3 mm thickness and showed lower thermal diffusiv-
ity, improved thermomechanical durability, higher in plane fracture toughness and low cooling requirements.

9. Conclusions

This overview presented the details of various gas turbine coatings, their methods of application and characterization,
degradation mechanisms and possible future directions. Build up of several components that have lost their dimensions dur-
ing service through coating route is essential for economic use of the engine. Erosion resistant coatings protect the compres-
sor blade from sand particles and y ash thereby improving their performance and life. Alternate layers of soft and hard
R. Rajendran / Engineering Failure Analysis 26 (2012) 355369 367

coatings are applied to the compressor blades and vanes for enhanced erosion resistance. Anti-fretting coating protects the
contact area of the dovetail part of the compressor blade root from fretting fatigue failure. Abradable coatings offer close
clearance control thereby increasing the engine efciency. A fugitive phase with the solid lubricant and a brittle cermet form
the desirable composition of the abradable coating. As abradable coatings are not self bonding a bond coating is applied as a
bottom layer before the application of it. Wear resistant coatings give extended life of the parts that undergo rotary and
reciprocating rubbing motion. Agglomerated nano-WC17Co coating is gaining currency with superior hardness and tough-
ness over conventional microsized powder coating. Oxidation and corrosion resistant coatings are applied through either dif-
fusion or overlay process. While diffusion process is economical for bulk processing, there is less scope in it for altering the
chemistry of the coating. High temperature low activity coating is preferred to low temperature high activity coating as the
latter forms several undesirable compounds during the process which are detrimental to the coating life. Overlay coatings
has the advantage of provision for engineering the chemistry of the coating but it is a line of sight process. 7% yttria stabilized
zirconia thermal barrier coatings offer increased component life with a decrease in operating temperature of the metal. Solu-
tion precursor plasma spray is gaining momentum for higher thickness application and agglomerated nanopowder of yttria
stabilized zirconia provides lower thermal diffusivity, improved thermomechanical durability, higher in plane fracture
toughness in comparison with conventional plasma spray powders.


The author expresses his sincere gratitude to the Director GTRE for his permission to publish this article. Support and
encouragement provided by Additional Director S.P. Sureshkumar is acknowledged. Thanks are due to Dr. Vijaya Kumar Var-
ma, Group Director, CEMILAC, Bangalore for useful discussions and suggestions during the preparation of the manuscript.
Acknowledgements are also due to Mr M D Ganeshachar for the microstrure and hardness measurement for abradable bond
coating and Mrs. Shweta Verma for the microstructure on chromium plating. Mr D.Chandru Fernando is acknowledged for
his support in the preparation of the manuscript.


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