Faster, Hotter, Longer Life - Materials Research for Critical Non-Metallic Components
The service conditions seen by non-metallic components in reciprocating compressors continue to expand in range. We increasingly encounter higher RPM machines, with higher discharge temperatures and pressure differentials, accompanied by demands for equivalent or longer lifetime. While the more common, somewhat commoditized non-metallic materials still fulfill a significant role in both R&P and valve sealing elements, the more highly demanding environments require continued developmental effort to keep up with the demand. At the same time, customers are becoming more technically astute with regards to predictability of lifetimes, wear rates related to service intervals for turnarounds and PM programs, and the material providers are therefore obligated to provide more science and less art in this field of materials engineering. This discussion will focus on the higher end, newer classes of materials for non-metallic components in reciprocating compressors, the qualification and assessment methods used in selecting appropriate materials, and some of the fundamental research that is occurring to improve the state of the art in this application space. We will specifically discuss challenges associated with wear life prediction from lab to field, and the field of tribological science. The concept of fatigue life and lifetime prediction for valve sealing element materials will also be reviewed, as new methods of lifetime prediction are being developed. Additionally, we will discuss increased demands for and development of appropriate testing fixtures and lab equipment that best mimic the service conditions encountered by the parts in service.