Unsteady Flow Simulation in Hydraulic Systems

An unsteady flow is one where the parameters change with respect to time. In general, any liquid flow is unsteady. But if a hydraulic system is working at constant boundary conditions, then the parameters of the fluid flow change slowly; thus this flow is considered steady. At the same time, if the parameters of the fluid flow oscillate over time relative to some constant value, then it called quasi-steady flow 1.

In practice, most fluid flows are steady or quasi-steady. Examples of the three flows are presented in Figure 1. Steady flow is presented by a simple pipe. The quasi-steady flow is represented by a sharpened edge channel. The unsteady flow is presented by an outflow from a reservoir.

Figure 1 - Different Types of Fluid Flow
Figure 1 – Different Types of Fluid Flow
Different Cases of Unsteady Flow

During operations, hydraulic systems act for long intervals at steady conditions which are called operating modes. Change between two different operating modes occurs over a short time interval (called a transient mode). If any hydraulic system works more than 95% of the time at these operating modes though, why is the unsteady flow is so important? Because the loads depend on time intervals. If the load is less, then the maximum system pressure is higher. Read More

An Introduction to Thermal Management in Electric Propulsion Systems

Reduction in CO2 emissions is driving the development of different electric, turbo-electric and hybrid electric propulsion systems for various applications and industries including space, aviation, automotive and marine. Electric propulsion (EP) is not a new concept, having been studied in parallel with chemical propulsion for many years. EP is a generic name encompassing all the ways of accelerating a propellant using electric power by different possible electric and/or magnetic means. The simplest way to achieve electric propulsion is to replace the heat generated by combustion in conventional chemical engines with electrical heating.

Electric propulsion systems offer several advantages compared to other conventional propulsion systems. It not only helps reduce the environmental emissions but also helps reduce fuel consumption and increases safety levels. Electric propulsion has become a cost effective and sound engineering solutions for many applications. Electric propulsion engines are also more efficient than others. It is proven to be one of the most energy saving technologies as we can use more renewable sources of energy (due to the versatility of electricity generation) instead of non-renewable sources of energy like gasoline. The major limitation of electric propulsion, when compared with conventional propulsion is limited by the available electric power capacity on board, this may be the reason, it is not the default propulsion system.

Electric Propulsion Architectures
Figure 1. Electric Propulsion Architectures. SOURCE: [4]
Generally, electric propulsion architectures vary depending on the application. Figure 1, above, shows the EP architectures for an aviation application. These architectures rely on different electric technologies (batteries, motors, generators, and so on). Typical aircrafts use gas turbine engines as the source of propulsion power, but all electric aircraft systems use batteries as the only source of propulsion power as shown in Figure 1 on the right. The hybrid systems use gas turbine engines for propulsion and to charge batteries which also provide energy for propulsion and accessories during one or more phases of flight as shown in Figure 1 on the left. Read More

Preventing Choke and Surge in a Compressor

Turbo Compressors are used to increase the pressure of a gas, which are required in propulsion systems like a gas turbine, as well as many production processes in the energy sectors, and various other important industries such as the oil and gas, chemical industries, and many more.

Such compressors are highly specific to the working fluid used (gas) and the specific operating conditions of the processes for which they are designed. This makes them very expensive. Thus, such turbo compressors should be designed and operate with high level of care and accuracy to avoid any failure and to extract the best performance possible from the machine.

Axial Compressor and Centrifugal Compressor in AxSTREAM
Figure 1 (A) Axial Compressor (B) Centrifugal Compressor in AxSTREAM®

Turbo Compressor Characteristic Curves

The characteristic curves of any turbo compressor define the operating zone for the compressor at different speed lines and is limited by the two phenomenon called choke and surge. These two opposing constraints can be seen in Figure 2.

Choke conditions occurs when a compressor operates at the maximum mass flow rate. Maximum flow happens as the Mach number reaches to unity at some part of the compressor, i.e. as it reaches sonic velocity, the flow is said to be choked. In other words, the maximum volume flow rate in compressor passage is limited by limited size of the throat region.  Generally, this calculation is important for applications where high molecular weight fluids are involved in the compression process.

Surge is the characteristic behavior of a turbo compressor at low flow rate conditions where a complete breakdown of steady flow occurs. Due to a surge, the outlet pressure of the compressor is reduced drastically, and results in flow reversal from discharge to suction. It is an undesirable phenomenon that can create high vibrations, damage the rotor bearings, rotor seals, compressor driver and affect the entire cycle operation.

Compressor Performance Curve
Figure 2 Compressor Performance Curve

Preventing Choke and Surge Conditions

Both choke conditions and surge conditions are undesirable for optimal operation of a turbo compressor.  Each condition must be considered during design to ensure these conditions are prevented. Read More

Optimization of the Closed Supercritical CO2 Brayton Cycle with the Detailed Simulation of Heat Exchangers

Recently scientists and engineers have turned their attention again to carbon dioxide as a working fluid to increase the efficiency of the Brayton cycle. But why has this become such a focus all of a sudden?

The first reason is the economical benefit. The higher the efficiency of the cycle is, the less fuel must be burned to obtain the same power generation. Additionally, the smaller the amount of fuel burned, the fewer emission. Therefore, the increase in efficiency also positively affects the environmental situation. Also, by lowering the temperature of the discharged gases, it is possible to install additional equipment to clean exhaust gases further reducing pollution.

So how does all of this come together? Figure 1 demonstrates a Supercritical CO2 power cycle with heating by flue gases modeled in AxCYCLE™. This installation is designed to utilize waste heat after some kind of technological process. The thermal potential of the exhaust gases is quite high (temperature 800° C). Therefore, at the exit from the technological installation, a Supercritical CO2 cycle was added to generate electrical energy. It should be noted: if the thermal potential of waste gases is much lower, HRSG can be used. More information on HRSG here: http://blog.softinway.com/en/introduction-to-heat-recovery-steam-generated-hrsg-technology/

Any cycle of a power turbine installation should consist of at least 4 elements : 2 elements for changing the pressure of the working fluid (turbine and compressor) and 2 elements for changing the temperature of the body (heater and cooler). The cycle demonstrated in Figure 1 has an additional regenerator, which makes it possible to use a part of the heat of the stream after the turbine (which should be removed in the cooler) to heat the stream after the compressor. Thus, part of the heat is returned to the cycle. This increases the efficiency of the cycle, but it requires the introduction of an additional heat exchanger.

The heat exchangers used in the sCO2 cycle are of three basic types: heaters, recuperators, and coolers. Typical closed Brayton cycles using sCO2 as the working fluid require a high degree of heat recuperation.

Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle with Heating by Flue Gases
Figure 1 – Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle with Heating by Flue Gases

Having examined this scheme and examined the process in detail, we can draw the following conclusions about the advantages of this cycle which is demonstrated in Figure 2: Read More

Improving Efficiency, One Rocket at a Time (An Excerpt from Exceptional People Magazine)

The following is an excerpt from  Exceptional People Magazine, conducted by Monica Davis and focused on profiling SoftInWay’s CEO, Dr. Leonid Moroz.   The article appeared in the September/October 2019 issue. A link to the full interview can be found here

Turbomachinery design is critical in industries like aerospace, oil and gas, defense, and clean technology. Dr. Leonid Moroz’s company, SoftInWay Inc., also helps some of the world’s largest manufacturers of turbines, turbochargers, pumps, and fans. But Moroz is happy to explain that his company’s innovations also impact the car you drive, the vacuum cleaner you use, the air conditioning in which you work, and the electricity needed to power your mobile phone.

Leonid Moroz
Dr. Leonid Moroz, CEO of SoftInWay

A lover of music and athletics as a child, Moroz knew early on that engineering held promise as a lifelong career. So he started his career as a Group Leader at TurboAtom. TurboAtom, while a state-owned entity, is one of the world’s top thermal, nuclear, and hydropower plant turbine construction companies. It’s a company that operates at the level of companies like General Electric and Siemens.

Moroz designed both gas and steam turbines during his eight years at TurboAtom. While he was there, he also earned his Ph.D. in Turbomachinery from the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute in Ukraine.

When he founded global aerospace engineering leader SoftInWay, Inc. in 1999, he intended to assist turbomachinery manufacturers needing his expertise. What evolved from that intent has revolutionized engineering design and allowed improved efficiencies for multiple system types: Its flagship software, AxSTREAM.

AxSTREAM helps engineers develop efficient turbomachinery flow path design, redesign, analysis, and optimization. Under Moroz’ direction, AxSTREAM itself has also evolved into a design platform supporting rapid development of a new generation of liquid rocket engines.

Still a relatively small company, SoftInWay supports over 400 companies worldwide and works closely with universities, research laboratories, and government organizations. The company takes its educational responsibilities seriously, continually offering webinars, training sessions, educational blogs, and online workshops on topics like When To Upgrade Your Pump, The Pros and Cons of Wind Energy, and Radial Outflow Turbine Design.

Moroz loves to talk about his work, his company, its innovations, and his team. He’s proud to have had the same group of engineers for 30 years, so SoftInWay feels more like a family than a workplace. As the company has become a leading global R&D engineering company, it has expanded to encompass locations in Boston, Massachusetts; Zug, Switzerland; Ukraine; and India.

Yes, Moroz’ specialty is indeed a bit technical for people who aren’t in turbomachinery engineering design. But Moroz and his team clearly enjoy what they’re doing because it benefits society and makes life easier and more comfortable in myriad ways.

Next time you switch on that ShopVac or Hoover, be sure to thank Dr. Leonid Moroz.

Monica: We often take for granted how engineering plays a huge role in our daily lives. How much of the world depends on the kind of technology and engineering capabilities you produce?

Dr. Moroz: Quite substantially. For example, society produces a lot of waste and heat. If you have options, it utilizes waste and heat to produce power, or it is thrown away. We’ve helped companies to utilize this energy and to produce power to heat or cool our houses, to prepare food, and to help our businesses survive.

Image from a SoftInWay Classroom Course

Another example again would be launchers design. Launchers are important for turbomachinery. A significant part of space development depends on turbomachinery inside those launchers.

It’s important to understand two directions where people can utilize turbomachinery with power consumption and power generation. Power generation is when you produce power, so we need to be more efficient, but the second part, when we get this power, we need to cool our houses, we need to cool our cars, and so on, and again, it’s turbomachinery.

You can be sure that you utilize turbomachinery to develop an air conditioning system that is efficient and is quite substantially in large buildings.

Power consumption for air conditioning is like 30 or 40 percent of the overall power consumption. Can you imagine if you were to decrease this by 10 to 20 percent? It would be a considerable saving…Read the full interview here

 

Role of AxSTREAM® in Radial Turbine Design

Radial turbines are quite popular for turbochargers and micro-gas turbines. They can also be found in compact power sources like in auxiliary power units of aircrafts. In short, they are suitable in power generation applications where expansion ratios are high and mass flow rates are relatively small. In a radial turbine, the flow enters radially and exits either axially or radially depending on whether it is an inflow or outflow type radial turbine. The most commonly used type of radial turbine is a radial-inflow turbine, in which the working fluid flows from a larger radius to a smaller radius. A centripetal turbine is very similar in appearance to the centrifugal compressor, but the flow direction is reverse. Figure 1 shows the radial-inflow turbine on the left and radial-outflow turbine on the right.

Radial-inflow turbine on the left; Radial-outflow turbine on the right
Figure 1: Radial-inflow turbine on the left; Radial-outflow turbine on the right

Nowadays, the popularity of radial-outflow turbines, in which the flow moves in the opposite direction (from the center to the periphery), is growing. With recent advancement in waste heat recovery applications, there has been a renewed interest in this type of turbines. These radial-outflow turbines are most commonly used in applications based on organic Rankine cycles (ORC).

The radial-outflow turbine design was first invented by the Ljungström brothers in 1912, however it was rarely used for a number of reasons. One of which was related to the decrease of turbine-specific work due to the increase of the peripheral velocity from inlet to outlet while expanding the vapor. Another reason was the usage of steam as a working fluid. It is known from thermodynamics that the expansion of steam is characterized by high enthalpy drops, high volumetric flows and high volumetric ratios. Thus, a significant number of stages are needed to convert the enthalpy drop of the fluid into mechanical energy.

Read More

Tidal Energy

If you’re looking for clean, free energy… a song comes to mind.

Tide after tide.
If you flow I will catch – I’ll be waiting.
Tide after tide.

With no particular link to Cyndi Lauper, waves just want to have fun so let’s allow them to do so while catching their drift as a potential energy source using tidal turbines.

Introduction:

Wave energy is a form of hydropower used to convert energy obtained from tides into mechanical and/or electrical power. Wave energy is produced when electricity generators are placed on the surface of the ocean. The energy provided is most often used in desalination plants, power plants and water pumps. Energy output is determined by wave height, wave speed, wavelength, and water density.

sea wave during storm
Figure 1 Ocean Waves

How are Tides Generated:

Tidal forces are periodic variations in gravitational attraction exerted by celestial bodies. It is these forces that are responsible for the currents in the world’s oceans. A local, strong attraction on a part of the ocean allied with moving celestial bodies and the rotation of the Earth leads this bulging part of water to meet the adjacent shallower waters of the shoreline which creates the tides.

Read More

The Pros and Cons of Wind Energy

Who knew passing wind would be so exhilarating?

Last month we discussed a few basic aspects of wind as a source of clean energy. We showed what wind was, how it forms and where it goes.  Then after going on a tangent about the history of turbines, we showed where on the Earth we could recover the highest amount of wind energy and how this potential changes with altitude. Today’s post offer the pros and cons of wind energy while touching upon several topics discussed in the previous post before diving into the optimal where and when.

Getting into the “What”

With an established worldwide potential of more than 400 TW (20 times more than what the entire human population needs) and a clean, renewable source wind is definitely attractive to the current and future generations. In terms of harvesting it, over 99% percent of wind farms in the USA are located in rural areas with 71% of them in low-income counties. Indeed, the more land is available (and the fewer buildings), the higher the possibility and interest to transform this kinetic energy into mechanical work and then most likely electricity.

Where one would see sporadic turbines on the side of the highway, these stand-alone equipment have begun to turn into actual modules (farms) that can work as an overall unit instead of individual ones. This strategy of creating a network of turbines follows the philosophy of “the Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts”. What this translates into is that by having 20 (arbitrary number) wind turbines working together to determine the best orientation, pitch, etc. of their blades in such a way that it least negatively impacts the downstream units we can produce more energy than if each of them were live-optimized individually (some interesting A.I. work is going into this). This means that the overall system is more efficient at converting energy and therefore it is more cost effective to provide bulk power to the electrical grid. This is similar to the concept in the post on solar energy comparing PV panels and CSP. Read the full post here. 

In terms of power production per wind turbine, the utility-scale ones range from about 100 kW to several MW for the land-based units (Offshore wind turbines are typically larger and produce more power – getting ahead of myself here but check out the figure below for wind potential in Western Europe that clearly showcases coast vs. non-coast data). On the low-power end of the spectrum, we find some below 100 kW for some non-utility applications like powering homes, telecommunications dishes, water pumping, etc. Solar power (PV) is generally regarded as the first choice for homeowners looking to become energy producers themselves, but wind turbines make an excellent alternative in some situations. It would take a wind turbine of about 10 kilowatts and $40,000 to $70,000 to become a net electricity producer. Investments like this typically break even after 10 to 20 years.

Wind potential in Western Europe
Figure 8 Wind potential in Western Europe – https://globalwindatlas.info/

Onto the “Where”

One of the elements of wind formation we covered in the last post here was a different in pressure (and therefore temperature). This simplification works rather well at the macro-scale, but as we zoom in closer to the surface we can see that wind flow speeds and patterns vary quite significantly based on more than just the general location of Earth. On top of the altitude we already discussed, factors like vegetation, presence of high-rise buildings or bodies of water come into play.

Read More

The What, Where and How of Wind Power

Choosing how to start something is often the most challenging part since the rest is usually about moving with the flow (turbomachinery pun intended). So, now that we got that out of the way let’s talk about our next topic after we do a quick flashback on the previous episodes of this Clean Energy series.

In the first post in this series, we discussed clean energy as a whole. After describing what it is and what it is not, we pointed out some of the energy sources we would analyze in subsequent articles.

The second post in this series took us on an extraterrestrial journey for two reasons: we looked at solar energy and we also went on a tangent about the rovers operating on planet Mars. I got so many “Likes” on these little droids that I figured I would keep going with them (that or I found a cool article that I’ll be sharing here) for this current post on one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world: Wind Energy. What’s the link between Mars equipment and wind? See this recent discovery – https://www.space.com/41023-mars-wind-power-landers-experiment.html

Side note: ever wondered what would happen if the sun just blinked out? Check it out here – https://what-if.xkcd.com/49/

The wind we are looking at in today’s post is somewhere in between bovine flatulence and hurricanes in terms of intensity. Wind as we know it is created by air (or any fluid) moving from a zone of high pressure to one of low pressure. This high-to-low concentration migration might sound tricky, but it is easy to understand if you think of cars on a highway. It is more likely that cars stuck in a slow lane on the highway would move on to a lane with less traffic rather than the other way around.

Pressure varies with things like irregularities on the Earth surface, AKA altitude (“in case loss of cabin pressure occurs, oxygen masks will drop […]”), but also with temperature. This means that two people at the same altitude but in areas of different temperatures would experience different pressures. For example, think of standing at the North Pole vs. standing on a Caribbean beach vs. standing on a paddleboard in the Great Lakes. This example of standing at different places demonstrates the uneven heating of the Earth from the sun due to its shape (not flat), its rotation and its tilt, as we introduced in the previous post. But which location is under the most pressure? Colder temperature equals higher pressure.  Let me explain with another analogy, (even though this example has nothing to do with pressure, it will help the information stick).  When people get stressed, we say they are under pressure.  We can imagine somebody above the Arctic Circle is more stressed (cold, where to find food, shelter, etc.) than somebody enjoying a Mai Tai on the beach at an all-inclusive resort in Aruba. So here is your mnemonics; colder equals higher pressure.

Wind creation example
Figure 1 Wind creation example – http://www.ei.lehigh.edu/learners/energy/wind1.html 

Now that we have seen what wind was and the theory behind how it forms, we can start thinking about how to utilize this energy. Today we will talk about the aerodynamic aspect of wind turbines while in a future post we will be focusing on the assessment of such technology as wind power; pros, cons, where, what, etc.
Read More

Solar Energy – What is it and How is it Used?

“That sun is trying to kill us” is something I hear every other day from my wife. Growing up and settling in the Midwest of the USA, she is used to the beating heat from our local star. I remember a particular summer when the consecutive number of days over 100F (~38C) was well over 60.

As you can imagine this post is about the sun. (By which, I mean the star closest to us, but similar principles would apply to other solar systems). The emphasis will be made on understanding what this energy is, and how we can harness it.

First, let’s discuss solar energy in general. As its name suggests, this type of energy comes from the sun. (Solaris means sun in Latin and is where our word solar comes from). So far, so good. Now, even though “radiation” gets a bad reputation, this is actually how the heat and energy from our star reaches us. The radiation is produced by nuclear reactions in our sun’s core. Two hydrogen atoms get fused together to form one helium atom. The chemical reaction releases heat and light. And all of this is occurring inside the sun 93 million miles away in space. The light and heat travel through space. Then some of that energy, in the form of radiation, reaches us here on Earth.

Now that we know what energy solar energy is and where it comes from, let’s briefly discuss the processes we currently have to capture this energy and what uses we can make of it.

There are primarily two types of sun power harnessing systems:

  1. Solar panels
  2. Concentrated Solar Power (also known as CSP)


Solar panels are typically photovoltaic (PV) which means that they will convert photon energy (photo) into electricity (voltaic). When you think of such technology the roof of houses and office buildings (PV panels – comprised of several PV cells) is usually the first example to come to mind. But, don’t forget the small solar cells used to power your calculator (PC cell), or the much larger installations on the side of the highway (PV arrays – comprised of multiple PV panels). After capturing this solar energy, you can either use it for your personal needs, or in some cases you can sell it back to the grid. Note: Amazon recently completed its 17th rooftop solar project by installing a 1.1 MW array on its Las Vegas fulfillment center (https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2018/05/amazon-s-onsite-solar-just-went-up-a-notch.html).Another way solar panels work for domestic application is to circulate a liquid through the panels to heat the home (air heating, water heating, and so on).

CSP use a different technology altogether. Fields of mirrors (that rotate with the sun) are used to concentrate the energy from the sun into what is called a “black body”. In heat transfer terms, this refers to something that has a high thermal coefficient (emissivity) and typically sits at the top of a tower. If you have ever used a magnifying glass to concentrate solar energy on some dry twigs to start a fire, you have seen how effective this approach can be.

Figure 1 CPS project
Figure 1 CPS project – http://helioscsp.com/2017/02/

The previous blog post of this series mentioned that both nuclear and solar sources were considered clean energies with solar being renewable while our sun still shines. What makes it clean exactly? I am glad you asked! (I know you did not, but let’s pretend you did.) To quote my last post, clean energies are defined as “energies that do not pollute the atmosphere when used.” With solar energy, the process of energy creation is indeed harmless to the surrounding. The environmental impact of the systems to manufacture items needed to capture the solar energy and recycling/disposing of waste products from that process may pollute. Some will argue that solar arrays can be a visual pollution, but that objective opinion does not make solar a “dirty” energy since gathering the energy neither produce pollutants nor emits carbon dioxide.
Read More