Recent investments in the Cranfield Gas Turbine Laboratories (Test Area) have involved the refitting and re-commissioning of the pebble bed air heater test rig (high enthalpy facility) in Test House 4.

The technician team of the Centre for Propulsion and Thermal Power Engineering has reactivated this unique facility to provide non-vitiated air with temperatures in excess of 1700K and pressure of 15 bars. A full restoration of the infrastructure, services (electricity, air and water) and primary instrument readings has been accomplished. In order to comply with the strict University standards of health and safety, written schemes of examination for the pressure vessel have been prepared, and at the same time, updated standard procedures of operation have been revised and issued. Instrumentation and control have been re-established as per the original design.

A modern data acquisition system, developed in house, has also been implemented. The control room now hosts a customized data acquisition platform developed in LabVIEW™, for the monitoring of temperatures and pressures of the main vessel. Additionally, a new PID control system has been implemented and tested for guaranteeing stable supply of hot air to the test items. This new feature is enhancing the autonomy of the rig up to one (1) hour for relative low temperature targets (near to 400 C). Procedures for operation have been reviewed, and several commissioning runs have been performed successfully. The rig is fully operational and is being used in experimental testing within the context of the ENABLEH2 H2020 programme.