Development of novel gearbox lubrication condition monitoring sensors in the context of wind turbine gearboxes

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Wind power has become established as an alternative power source that forms a significant proportion of national energy generation. An increasing proportion of turbines is being constructed offshore to exploit higher average wind speeds and to avoid development issues associated with onshore wind farms. Isolated locations and unpredictable weather conditions lead to increased access costs for operators when conducting scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and repairs. This has increased interest in condition monitoring systems which can track the current state of components within a wind turbine and provide operators with predicted future trends. Asset management can be improved through condition based maintenance regimes and preventative repairs. Development of novel condition monitoring systems that can accurately predict incipient damage can optimise operational performance and reduce the overall level of wind turbine generation costs. The work described in this thesis presents the development of novel sensors that may be applied to monitor wind turbine gearboxes, a component that experiences relatively high failure rates and causes considerable turbine downtime. Current systems and technology that may be adapted for use in wind turbine condition monitoring are evaluated. Lubrication related monitoring systems have been identified as an area that could be improved and are divided into those that track liberated wear material suspended in the lubricant and those that assess the state of the lubricant itself. This study presents two novel lubrication based gearbox monitoring sensors that potentially offer a low cost solution for continuous data capture. The first demonstrates the potential for active pixel sensors such as those found in digital cameras to capture images of wear particles within gearbox lubricants. Particle morphology was tracked in this system, allowing the type of particles to be correlated with the type of wear that is generated and a potential source. The second sensor uses a targeted form of infra-red absorption spectroscopy to track changes in the lubricant chemistry due to the increase in acidity. Ensuring the lubricant is functioning correctly decreases component stress and fatigue, reducing maintenance requirements.
Date of Award7 Oct 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorFrancis Quail (Supervisor) & David Infield (Supervisor)

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