The Optimization Challenge in the Development of Turbomachinery

Optimization (or parametric studies) of a twin spool bypass turbofan engine with mixed exhaust and a cooled turbine can be considered one of the most complex problem formulations. For engine selection, determining the thrust specific fuel consumption and specific thrust is necessary against variables such as design limitations (Inlet temp, etc.), design choices (fan pressure ration, etc.) and operating conditions (speed & altitude). The task involves cycle level studies following machine, module, stage and component level optimization. This calls for an integrated environment (IE) and it is desirable to have such an IE operating on a “single” platform.

Historically IE was developed for the design of axial turbines (mainly steam). Later, it was expanded for gas turbines (especially blade cooling calculations) and axial compressors via plug-in modules. The new challenge designers face today is developing mixed flow machinery. An effective system for modern turbomachinery design needs to do the following: AxSTREAM_ION

  1. Involve a set of design modules necessary for design procedures under one operating platform (an umbrella, per se) that performs initial sizing and optimization, 1D formulations, and build 3D geometric blade models that are available for final refinement by means of 3D aerodynamic CFD and stress analysis
  2. Have the ability to automate and optimize calculations using embedded models
  3. Improve flexibility in carrying out interactive design scenarios including rollback to previous version(s), version support, project integrity, ensure expandability, scalability, and maintainability
  4. Provide users with convenient mechanisms to input, edit, display and export data to other systems.

The architecture presented below gives the designer an opportunity to design axial, radial and mixed flow turbomachinery in an integrated environment on a single platform. The objective is to review a large number of variants and design parameters to realize optimum results. From a software engineering perspective, the majority of modules are required to be compatible with every type of turbomachinery, and specific modules must be able to run simultaneously (axial and radial turbine, axial and radial compressor). Consequently, a solution using common modules (project data access, graphical display of information, multi-choice calculation and optimization, import/export, etc.) and specific machine modules operating in tandem emerges. It embodies cycle level analysis and further down to blade (impeller) 3D profiling, stress analysis, and 3D Flow analysis.

Such an IE platform shortens the design development process significantly, thereby decreasing engineering costs and improving productivity

To learn more about our new integrated software tool for automated design, register for our upcoming free webinar

Alternative Refrigerants to R-22

Gas tanks

The majority of HVAC installations dating back to the 1990s have R-22 as their main working fluid. However, recent studies have proven that R-22 or as we commonly known as “Freon” (brand type) is not as environmentally friendly as we once thought it was. Ergo the use of this refrigeration type has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency along with other substances which contributes to ozone depletion. With phasing out of R-22, HVAC manufacturers and end-users are forced to look into other comparable refrigerants which won’t negatively impact the environment as much.

R-410A offers a few benefits when compared to the traditional R-22 fluid – one of which is greater energy efficiency which translates into lower operational costs. This hydro-fluorocarbon has been approved for use in new systems and is classified as a non-ozone-depleting HFC. One note that has to be taken into consideration is that R-410A operates on roughly a 50% higher pressure than R-22, thus can only work with high pressure limit equipment.

R-407C has been set as the new standard for the U.S residential air conditioning system as of two years ago. Consequently, the commercial refrigeration system (including air conditioning and chilling units) R-407C was found to be the most frequent refrigerant to be used as a substitute of R-22. Of the higher temperature this type of refrigerant gives similar operating characteristic to R-22. R-407C, a non-ozone-depleting substance, gives better performance in comparison to Freon due to its higher pressure and refrigeration capacity.

R-134A is currently one of the most common refrigerant fluids; especially in HVAC applications in the automotive industry. Many machines are retrofitted to match this fluid from R-22; though one should be careful not to mix and cross contaminate R-22 with R-134A which can result to danger of raising compressor head pressure as well as unfavorable reliability. R-134A is made of one single component, which comes with the advantage of utilization of  a single recovery machine and adding into that, according to recent studies, R-134A is environmentally friendly which makes it an even more attractive choice.




Steam and Gas for Power Generation

Nowadays, gas and steam turbines are contributing to more than 80% of the electricity generated worldwide. If we add the contribution from hydro turbines too, then we reach 98% of total production.

The improvement of the flow path is crucial, and an advanced design can be achieved through several strategies. The aerodynamic optimization of gas and steam turbines can lead to enhanced efficiency. In addition to that, the minimization of secondary losses is possible by introducing advanced endwall shaping and clearance control. Moreover, further increase of efficiency can be achieved by decreasing the losses of kinetic energy at the outlet from the last stage of the turbine. This can be done using longer last-stage blades as well as improving the diffuser recovery and stability.

Flow Path
                     Flow Path of a Gas Turbine

Moreover, increased gas turbine performance is very much related to an increase of the turbine inlet temperature. However, the coolant mass flows will need to be minimized at the same time to achieve the highest performance benefits possible [1]. Therefore, effort must be put on the development of advanced cooling system concepts for the engine’s first stage components. New cooling surfaces as well as new cooling schemes should be studied by CFD modelling to use the coolant in the best possible way before it leaves the component.

A phenomenon that must be further addressed in this context is hot gas ingestion which can cause unacceptably high rotor temperatures. We need to develop more advanced technologies that will handle hot gas ingestion to make sure that the hot gases will be confined in the cavity without reaching the rotor itself. To use new sophisticated cooling methods based on porous structures a new method of thinking is necessary. Analysis methods, design concepts, and criteria must be developed and tested for such structures in order to optimize the design for components with porous structures. High temperature materials in gas turbines have properties that change significantly during the expected life of the component due to thermal exposure, mechanical load and the combination of the two. Issues that affect lifting and reliability and can cause serious problems are, for example, crack propagation usually due to creep or fatigue. In many components, early TBC (Thermal Barrier Coating) spallation will increase the material temperature of the component and reduce the safe life for which the component can be used [1].

Considerations for any power system, new or existing, include not only efficiency and optimization, but also cost, longer life-cycle of components, and keeping pace with current environmental restrictions. Given the scale of some of these projects, accurate early-stage design is critical for project success, whether it’s a new construction or retrofit.

At SoftInWay we have built our reputation on creating accurate preliminary design models for such projects. Our strength in engineering and power plant consulting combined with our AxCYCLE® heat balance calculation software are core offerings of success for turbomachinery design in the power generation sector.




Factors in your HVAC Selection


A few decades ago, opening and closing a window was enough air temperature control. In modern days though, the standard bar of comfortable living has become higher and the occurrence of global warming, which raises the world’s temperature to the extremes, is abundant.  With all this in mind, temperature control becomes a major necessities. During this post, we will be exploring factors which should be considered for a new installation of a HVAC system either to modern or conventional homes.

Regardless of the size of property, ductwork that is balanced and well designed must be installed to make sure that the air and temperature circulation is optimal –especially for locations with extreme weather conditions. Externally insulated round ducts are found to be the most efficient. Installation of balance dampers in the ductworks should also be important to regulate airflow.

End users should also be paying attention to materials of the HVAC unit. The condenser coil type directly relates to the reliability and stability of the HVAC unit, which is even more important in harsh environments. In common applications, coils which are made from one types of metal are usually more reliable and generate better efficiency.

HVAC application has several types of working fluids also known as refrigerants. The main function of refrigerant fluid is to cool, dehumidify and distribute the low temperature air in the system. For a long time, R-22 or Freon happened to be the most common refrigerant in the market. Nowadays though, the use of Freon has been banned for the reason of being environmentally harmful.  Currently, there are a couple other refrigerants that are commonly implemented in such application including R-134a, R-407c and many more. Those refrigerants have their own advantages and disadvantages which end users should compare themselves to see what would fit their needs the best.

Efficiency should be the most important aspect to study before settling on a type of HVAC system. There is minimum efficiency which is settled by the government, though aside from legal limit, this would be an ultimate factor to be analyzed by users since efficiency directly correlates to operational costs (the higher the SEER, the lower utility bill you get). Thus, an up-front investment might benefit in the long run.


SuperTruck II Program and Waste Heat Recovery Systems

Familiar to many, the 2011 SuperTruck program was a five-year challenge set by the U.S. Department of Energy to create a Class-8 truck that improves fuel efficiency by 50 percent.  Hoping for even more groundbreaking achievements this time around, the Department of Energy has initiated a second five-year program to bring further fuel-efficiency advancements and near closer to eventual commercialization.  Cummins, Peterbilt, Daimler Trucks North America, Navistar, and Volvo Group remain the five teams involved in this R&D endeavor.  Michael Berube, head of the Energy Department’s vehicle technology office mentioned “SuperTruck II has set goals beyond where the companies think they can be.”  SuperTruck II is looking for a 100 percent increase in freight-hauling efficiency and a new engine efficiency standard of 55 percent.  With such lofty goals, the SuperTruck II development teams will need to tackle improvements in freight efficiencies from all sides.

Figure 1 - Daimler SuperTruck
Figure 1 – Daimler SuperTruck

Material considerations, body aerodynamics, low-resistance tires, predictive torque management using GPS and terrain information, combustion efficiency, and several other improvements methods on the first iteration have demonstrated how the SuperTruck II will require a multi-phase and integrated systems approach to achieve equally successful numbers. However, with an engine efficiency target that is 31 percent above the SuperTruck’s first go around, special attention will be required on engine advancement to achieve an efficiency standard of 55 percent.

One of the main methods apart from auxiliary load and friction reduction is a comprehensive waste heat recovery (WHR) system dedicated to the engine.  From the existing works devoted to waste heat recovery, the following methods of efficiency increase can be highlighted:

  1. Addition of the internal heat recuperation to a WHR cycle
  2. Appropriate working fluid selection
  3. Increment of initial parameters of bottoming cycle up to supercritical values
  4. Maximize waste heat utilization due to the usage of low temperature heat sources
  5. Bottoming cycle complexification or usage of several bottoming cycles with different fluids

Figure 2 - AxSTREAM Platform for Radial Turbine Design
Figure 2 – AxSTREAM Platform for Radial Turbine Design

With regards to fluid selection, no universal organic fluid exists that is suitable for a wide range of ORC applications.  For this reason, each WHR project requires an extensive fluid selection analysis as one of the main design steps.  In general, working fluids are selected based on their thermodynamic properties, thermal stability, and environmental impact/safety.  Amongst the most popular options are water, ethanol, R245fa, and R134a.  Once the proper design range it set for the waste heat cycle, the designer can successfully set which fluid may be the best for its given application.

Later in the design process, the engineer must consider how to design a turbine that will create the optimal amount of power for the selected fluid type and operating ranges.  With high efficiency targets on the SuperTruck II, the proper experience and resources are required to create high-efficiency ORC turbines that can achieve these targets.  It is will be interesting to see what kind of engine advancements and technologies will be utilized from each design team throughout the outset and final completion of the SuperTruck II.  If you would like to learn more about SoftInWay’s AxSTREAM platform for design ORC Turbines in WHR cycles, please visit: 



Rerates, Upgrades, and Modifications to Steam Turbine

Steam Turbine DesignSteam turbines are designed to have long, useful lives of 20 to 50 years. Often, many parts of steam turbine are custom designed for each particular application, however, standardized components are also used. It is therefore inherently possible to effectively redesign a steam turbine several times during its useful life while keeping the basic structure (foot print, bearing span , casing etc) of these turbines unchanged! Indeed this is also true for many turbomachines. These redesigns are usually referred to as rerates and upgrades, depending on the reasons for doing them. The need for changes to hardware in an existing turbine may be required for (a) efficiency upgrades, (b) reliability upgrade (including life extension), (c) rerating due to a change in process (Process HMDB, use in combined cycle etc), and (d) modification for a use different from that of its original design. Typical changes include hardware components such as buckets/blades, control system,  thrust bearing , journal bearing , brush and laby seals, nozzle/diaphragm , casing modification,  exhaust end condensing bucket valves, tip seals and coatings.

Performance and Efficiency Upgrade The basic power and/or speed requirements of a steam turbine may change after commissioning for various reasons. The most common reason is an increase (or decrease) in the power required by the driven machine due to a plant expansion or de-bottlenecking. Other reasons include a search for increased efficiency, a change in the plant steam balance, or a change in steam pressure or temperature. Because steam turbines are periodically refurbished, an opportunity exists to update the design for the current operating environment. Turbine OEM’s , services companies and end users often face a challenge of undertaking engineering work within the very tight  time frame available for maintenance.  The AxSTREAM® software suite provides users with an automated capability of rerate, upgrade and modifications for performance and efficiency objectives. A summary of such features highlighting the capabilities is presented below:

Image for Retrofitting of Steam Turbines


Compressor Types in Air Conditioning Systems

Compressor for HVAC

A compressor unit is an important component in an air conditioning system used to remove the heat laden vapor refrigerant from the evaporator. The compressor raises the temperature and pressure of the working refrigerant fluid and transforms it to a high temperature and high pressure gas. Since the compressor is one of the most vital parts of a cooling system, to be able to have an efficient working cycle, an appropriate and optimum compressor design must be installed.

Generally, there are 5 types of compressor that can be used in HVAC installations, the most common  of which being reciprocating compressors used within a smaller scale conditioning system. Reciprocating compressors utilize pistons and cylinders to compress the refrigerant and an electric motor is used to provide a rotary motion.

In recent application, scroll compressors are found to be increasingly popular as an alternative to reciprocating compressors in HVAC installation. This type of compressor outstands in the reliability and efficiency sector when compared to reciprocating compressors. Scroll compressors consist of one stationary scroll and a second moving scroll which compresses the refrigerant – giving this type of compressor fewer moving parts and thus, higher reliability and efficiency. At a smaller size, scroll compressors can achieve similar flow rates and outlet pressure when compared to reciprocating compressors.

There are different kinds of rotary compressors, the most common ones being rotary screw and rotary vane. Rotary vane compressors are known to be smaller, quieter and more reliable and are commonly used in smaller residential split system applications. The application works with a rotating shaft as the blades move around the cylinder. The other rotary compressor consists of stationary blades which are attached to the housing, used for larger applications in comparison to rotary vane compressors.

Last but not least is the centrifugal compressor. Centrifugal compressors are mostly used in industrial installations due to the ability to cool large capacity of air. No piston, valve or cylinder is incorporated in the design and it relies on centrifugal force enabling it to have very few moving parts leading to higher efficiency and reliability.

Interested in learning more! Check out AxSTREAM for your compressor design!



Thermo-Physical Properties of Fluids for Simulation of Turbomachinery

Computer simulation and use of CAE/CAD are well-established tools used to understand the critical aspects of energetics (various losses), kinematics (velocities, mach no. etc.) and thermodynamics (pressures, temperatures, enthalpy etc) in thermodynamic cycles and turbomachinery. Computational models are now enabling the design and manufacture of machines that are more economical, have higher efficiency and are more reliable. Accuracy of complex processes that are simulated depends on thermos-physical properties of the working fluid used as input data. The importance of such properties was recognized when it became evident that a steam turbine cycle can have efficiency variance by a few percentage points depending on the chosen set of fluid properties.

Today the thermo-physical properties data is represented in the form of a set of combined theoretical and empirical predictive algorithms that rest on evaluated data. These techniques have been tested and incorporated into interactive computer programs that generate a large variety of properties based upon the specified composition and the appropriate state variables. Equations of state, correlations, or empirical models are used to calculate thermos-physical properties of fluids or mixtures. Examples of this include Helmholtz energy based equations, cubic equation of state, BWR pressure explicit equations, corresponding states models, transport models, vapor pressure correlations, spline interpolations, estimation models or calculation methods for vapor-liquid equilibrium or solubility, and surface tension correlations. Further fitting techniques, and group contribution methods are incorporated. The following broad level properties are often used in simulation tools:

  1. Thermodynamic properties including equation of state, phase equilibria, p-V-T behavior, heat capacity, enthalpy, thermal expansion, sound speed, and critical phenomena.
  2. Transport properties including thermal and electrical conductivity, viscosity, mass diffusion, thermal diffusion, non-Newtonian behavior, and thermal, thermoacoustic, and other diffusion waves.
  3. Optical and thermal radiative properties including dielectric constant, refractive index, emissivity, reflectivity, and absorptivity.
  4. Interfacial properties including solid-solid interfaces, surface tension, interfacial profiles, interfacial transport, and wetting.

Databases are now available for hydrocarbon mixtures, including natural gas, as well as a number of pure and mixed fluids of industrial importance. IAPWS, NIST and Coolprop are a few examples of such resources that provide valuable tools for turbomachinery and refrigeration engineers, and chemical and equipment manufacturers. One example is the IAPWS-IF97 that divides water and steam properties into five distinct regions.

Another example is properties of R134a expressed as 32 term, modified Benedict-Webb-Rubin (MBWR) equation of state, the accuracy of equation of state is estimated to be ± 0.2 % in density, ± 1 % in constant volume heat capacity and ± 0.6 % in sound velocity. The thermos-physical property databases provide core information for process modeling and development. The completeness, correctness, currency and reliability of the data as well as the integrity and management of the database itself are important factors in the ultimate reliability of the modeled process.

Micro Gas Turbines – Addressing the Challenges with AxSTREAM

During the last decade the development and extensive use of unmanned air vehicles (UAV) has accelerated the need for high performing micro gas turbines. In fact, their large energy density (Whr/kg) makes them attractive not only for UAV application, but also for portable power units, as well as for distributed power generation in applications where heat and power generation can be combined.
Micro gas turbines have the same basic operation principle as open cycle gas turbines (Brayton open cycle). In this cycle, the air is compressed by the compressor, going through the combustion chamber, where it receives energy from the fuel and thus raises in temperature. Leaving the combustion chamber, the high temperature working fluid is directed to the turbine, where it is expanded by supplying power to the compressor and for the electric generator or other equipment available [1].

Regarding the design of micro gas turbines, there are several challenges that need to be overcome. First, scaling is a common technique to define larger or smaller geometries with similar characteristics. However, a simple scaling of a high performance large gas turbine is not the right way to go for a good micro gas turbine design. One of the main reasons is the big change of the Reynolds number, as well as the heat transfer between the hot and cold components, which is not negligible [2].

Moreover, the high rotational speed that is needed to obtain the enthalpy and pressure changes prescribed by the gas turbine cycle constitutes a major mechanical problem. As far as geometrical constraints are concerned, material and manufacturing technique selection is crucial in order to lower the cost of the production, since micro gas turbines need to compete with heavier but cheaper batteries in many cases (i.e. for UAV applications). Finally, another major issue in micro gas turbines is the decrease of compressor and turbine efficiency with decreasing dimensions.

To address the above challenges and ensure a robust design, powerful tools are needed. AxCYCLE allows the user to design, analyse and optimize the thermodynamic cycles of the micro gas turbines and export the boundary conditions to AxSTREAM software platform for design and optimization of the components. The integration of preliminary design, CFD, FEA, and rotordynamic modules along with the simulation of cooling and secondary system flows under one common platform gives the power of controlling the overall design process while decreasing significantly the engineering time. Request now for a demonstration of AxSTREAM and speak to our engineers for additional details on the design process.



[2] “Micro Gas Turbines – A Short Survey of Design Problems”, R.A. Van den Braembussche, von Kármán Institute for Fluid Dynamics

Upcoming Webinar: Design and Optimization of Axial and Mixed Flow Fans for High Efficiency and Low Noise

Thursday, May 18 | 10:00 – 11:00 AM EST

Axial Fan CAD Image
Registration is now open for our May webinar demonstrating best practices for the development of competitive, high efficiency, and low noise axial and mixed flow fans for different aerodynamic loadings.

Axial and mixed flow fans have been in high demand for a number of years. The application of these machines span many different industries including HVAC, automotive, appliance, military equipment, and much more. Like many other types of turbomachinery, changing industry standards and market trends have resulted in fierce rivalry to compete on lifespan, efficiency, environmental and user friendliness, and overall quality. With this in mind, it goes without saying that companies are looking for tools needed to develop highly efficient equipment while minimizing noise as quiet fans are typically more desirable which results in higher demand and marketability.

Over the course of the last few years our company has experienced a number of clients coming to us requesting help with axial fan redesign. This is due to many factors including flawed code during the initial design. Often what would happen is the original design code would have issues with matching meanline/streamline simulations and CFD. This resulted in an insufficient design which, given the increased competition in the market, is less than ideal. Currently, we support different clients in these industries through the use and application of AxSTREAM®. By utilizing our software platform clients can develop competitive, high efficiency, and low noise axial and mixed flow fans the first time around or redesign existing models to meet their full potential.

Due to our experience, we wanted to share our expertise in our upcoming complementary webinar. Topics covered include:

Axial Fan CAD Front

  1. An overview of axial and mixed flow fans and their practical application
  2. Requirements of axial and mixed flow fans
  3. Noise estimation techniques
  4. Axial fan design using the AxSTREAM® software platform
  5. Fan blade design and optimization
  6. Fan aerodynamic blade loadings and performance simulation


The webinar also consists of a live software demonstration and a Q&A session with the presenter at the end of the presentation. Register below or follow this link for more information!

Register Here!