Demystifying S1-S2 Optimization in Turbomachinery

  1. Historically turbomachinery development began with empirical rules postulated by early pioneers. With the need for jet engine for aircraft propulsion, dimensionless analysis became popular, followed by the 1 D mean line design and 2D meridional methods. Today 2D meridional methods with 3D blade to blade CFD/FEA methods are a necessity as efficiency and reliability requirements are further pushed.


  1. One key aspect of 2D meridional design is S1-S2 optimization, which is a time consuming, laborious task and hence subject to human errors. S1-S2 optimization is a task of reviewing, adjusting and optimizing the flow path in the Tangential (S1 or blade-to-blade or pitchwise) and the Meridional (S2 or span wise) planes. The main purpose is to:
  • Fit the flow path to specific meridional dimensional constraints
  • Adjust blade-to-blade parameters while taking into account structural constraints.

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Design Process with AxSTREAM

Step 1: Basic inputs

– Input a set of boundary conditions, geometrical parameters and constraints that are known to the user.

Step 2: Design space generation

– Thousands of machine flow path designs can be generated from scratch
–  Explore a set of design solution points using the Design Space Explorer
–  Adjusting geometric parameters while retaining the desired boundary conditions is also possible

Preliminary Design
Figure 1: Design space
Post design geo modification B
Figure 2:  Post design geometry modification

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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].

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Foil Air Bearings for High-Temperature Turbocharger Applications

Within the realm of turbocharging, there are a number of different design challenges that influence the design process on both large-scale marine applications and smaller-scale commercial automobile applications.  From aerodynamic loads to dynamic control systems to rotor dynamics and bearing challenges, turbochargers represent a special subset of turbomachinery that requires complex and integrated solutions.  Turbocharger rotors specifically, have unique characteristics due to the dynamics of having a heavy turbine and compressor wheel located at the overhang ends of the rotor. The majority of turbocharger rotors are supported within a couple floating-ring oil film bearings.  In general, these bearings provide the damping necessary to support the high gyroscopic moments of the impeller wheels.  However, there are several disadvantages of working with these oil systems that have allowed different technologies to start to surface for these turbomachines.  With the floating-ring oil models, varying ring speed ratios and oil viscosity changes significantly influence the performance of the rotor dynamic model.

Dan blog bearing for turbochargers
Figure 1 – Floating-Ring Bearing Model for a Turbocharger

The application of oil-free bearings have started to emanate due to the overall consistency of their performance and the minimized heat loss associated with air as the damping fluid. Studies on these bearing types for turbomachinery applications are neither trivial nor unique, as they have seen plenty of exposure within the commercial and military aircraft industries within turbo compressors and turboexpanders. However, the success of these specific applications are due to the fact that these turbomachines operate with light loads and relatively low temperatures. The main design challenges with foil air bearings are a result of poor rotor dynamic performance, material capabilities, and inadequate load capacities at high temperature/high load applications.

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Gas for Power

Gas turbines are one of the most widely-used power generating technologies, getting their name by the production of hot gas during fuel combustion, rather than the fuel itself. Today, the industry is clearly driven by the need of fast and demand-oriented power generation, thus additional effort is put in extremely short installation times, low investment costs and an enormously growing volatility in the electrical distribution in order to achieve higher levels of reliability in the power grid [2].

The majority of land based gas turbines can be assigned in two groups [3]: (1) heavy frame engines and (2) aeroderivative engines. The first ones are characterized by lower pressure ratios that do not exceed 20 and tend to be physically large. By pressure ratio, we define the ratio of the compressor discharge pressure and the inlet air pressure. On the other hand, aeroderivative engines are derived from jet engines, as the name implies, and operate at very high compression ratios that usually exceed 30. In comparison to heavy frame engines, aeroderivative engines tend to be very compact and are useful where smaller power outputs are needed.

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Steam for Power

Turbine technology being central to energy-producing industry, research and development efforts is directed towards cost-savings (increased efficiency, reliability, and component lifespan), sustainability (alternative fuels, lower emissions), and cost-competitiveness (particularly for the emerging technologies) [1]. This blog post is the first in a series of three that will focus on steam, gas and hydraulic turbines for power generation.

Going back to the Archimides era we will find the idea of using the steam as a way to produce work. However, it was not until the industrial revolution when the first reciprocating engines and turbines developed to take advantage of steam power. Since the first impulse turbine development by Carl Gustaf de Laval in 1883 and the first reaction type turbine by Charles Parsons one year later, the development of turbines have sky-rocketed, leading to a power output increase of more 6 orders of magnitude[2].

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