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Pictures of the Future
The Magazine for Research and Innovation

Innovations: Inventor of the Year 2016 – Dr. Hans-Gerd Brummel

Pioneering Remote Diagnostics for Gas Turbines

Hans-Gerd Brummel, who works at Siemens Power Generation Services in Berlin, holds 69 individual patents. This achievement earned him the award Inventor of the Year 2016 in the Lifetime Achievement category. He is behind many technologies to optimize the operation of gas turbines.

If you want to be a leader in innovation, you must not make do with standard solutions. This attitude has led to Hans-Gerd Brummel winning an award as Inventor of the Year 2016 in the Lifetime Achievement category. He is behind many technologies to optimize the operation of gas turbines. For instance, he is one of the fathers of remote diagnostics and monitoring and recently developed a self-learning system for burner adjustment.

When he walks over the grounds of the gas turbine plant in Berlin-Moabit, he is greeted by many people. The inventor is well known here. No wonder – he has been working at the plant for more than 10 years. The rotors for some of the world’s most technologically sophisticated gas turbines, for example the flagship SGT5-8000H, are assembled in the Peter Behrens Hall, a protected building. From Berlin, the turbines are shipped all over the globe to produce electricity reliably and efficiently. And Brummel can justifiably claim to have made an active contribution to that.

“If large gas turbines in a power plant fail, that can quickly cost up to 100,000 euros per day”, he points out. The specialist for innovative measurement technologies and monitoring systems at the Power Generation Services Division develops new methods from scratch. In doing so, he collaborates closely with other experts – very often with colleagues from Corporate Technology. “Siemens is in an excellent position when it comes to advance research”, he says. His ideas for new methods mostly come following consultation with colleagues. “We discuss problems and weaknesses and at some point the idea crops up. It is not so important who had the original flash of inspiration as we generally work in highly motivated teams because of the complexity of the tasks.”

Development activities mostly start as a result of his own ideas, especially when no suitable measuring technology existed beforehand. But one of his most significant developments was initiated by management, who wanted to put gas turbine service on a new level with a remote diagnostics method in order to minimize risk. Collaborating closely with the new plant, Brummel developed an infrastructure to monitor the interior of turbines with the aid of a local diagnostics platform which transmitted data to a specialist center. “The breakthrough came when, at our new monitoring center in Orlando, we diagnosed a fault in a gas turbine at a distance of thousands of kilometers”, the inventor remembers. The operator of the power plant did not want to believe the bad news at first. As the customer insisted, the machine continued to run but now under constant observation by the diagnostics center. When the data indicated a further deterioration, the power plant unit was shut down in accordance with the previously agreed instructions from the center. The subsequent inspection of the gas turbine revealed several large cracks in the burner-turbine transition piece which could have led to complete failure of the turbine a little later, causing even greater damage. Brummel has kept one of the damaged metal pieces weighing several kilos to this day. These initial successes at the beginning of the millennium very quickly evolved into the standard remote monitoring and diagnostics system which is now connected to over 700 Siemens gas turbines in power plants throughout the world and constitutes a key element in our service business.

“The self-learning system has the memory of an elephant and remembers all available data from the operation of a gas turbine.”

With one of his more recent inventions, Brummel has helped to introduce a method of preventing damage from occurring in a gas turbine. Together with Corporate Technology, he developed and deployed a self-learning, smart system. “The system has the memory of an elephant and notices every variance from the best possible mode of operation; it also learns constantly,” he says. A controller that continuously improves the complex, multi-stage combustion process by regulating the individual fuel streams is connected to this system. “Previously, a combustion specialist had to visit the site every couple of months and make adjustments. Of course, that was too inflexible for the many fluctuations in operating conditions, including seasonal ones.”

The background to this new development is the difficult balance in operating a gas turbine efficiently at the respective load level while emitting as few pollutants into the environment as possible. Pushing pollutant reduction just a bit too far, however, can cause high-energy combustion oscillations that can pass to the walls of the combustion chambers and lead to damage. These contrary effects with many influencing factors can be tackled well with mathematical optimization approaches like artificial intelligence and self-learning methods. That was the basic idea behind the invention.

Many of his 58 invention disclosures relate to self-learning systems and diagnostics/inspection methods but also to new sensor developments. Hans-Gerd Brummel’s success in his career as an inventor is shown by his 69 individual patents in 48 patent families.

Katrin Nikolaus