The concept of turbine-powered automotive vehicles is not necessarily an unfamiliar idea or a technology that has yet to be explored. In fact, several prominent automakers explored this concept as early as the 1950s and 60s – with real, functional prototypes. Notably, Rover-BRM in the UK as well as Chrysler and General Motors in the US employed turbine engine programs to test the viability of such engines in the commercial market. The Chrysler turbine engine program began its research back in the late 1930s and eventually ran a public user program from September 1964 to January 1966 where a total of 55 cars were built. General Motors had tested gas turbine-powered cars with its many iterations of the Firebird in the 50s and 60s. Rover and British Racing Motors developed several prototypes of their Rover-BRM concept that actually participated in the Le Mans race three years in a row, from 1963 through 1965. However, even Chrysler, which was considered the leader of gas turbine research in automobiles, had to eventually abandon their program in 1979 after seven iterations of the turbine engine. Many of the initial issues with heat control and acceleration-lag were improved during the program’s lifetime, but the program had never paid off in the retail automotive sector, and its continued development was deemed too risky for Chrysler at the time.
Several decades later, we are seeing a resurgence of turbine motors in automobiles, but now serving as a range extender generator for electric vehicles instead. As with many upcoming technologies, learning from past research and failed historical attempts can bring light to the most elegant and innovative solutions for today’s modern challenges. This revolution of an old concept shares many of the qualities that made turbine engines attractive back in its initial development phase. Such advantages include the ability to run on any flammable liquid and the high power density that results in a significantly lower weight and size contribution than its piston engine counterpart.
Steam turbine technology has advanced significantly since it was first developed by Sir Charles Parson in 1884 . The concept of impulse steam turbines was first demonstrated by Karl Gustaf Patrik de Laval in 1887. A pressure compounded steam turbine based on in de laval principle was developed by Auguste Rateau in 1896. Westinghouse was one of the earliest licensee for manufacturing steam turbines obtained from Sir Charles Parson and became one of the earliest Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) in power generation and transmission.
Over the years, as steam turbine technology advanced, the design principles were based on either impulse type or reaction type with reaction type being more efficient. Though impulse was not as efficient as reaction type, it gained popularity due to lower cost and compact size. With advances in design and optimization methods being employed, the efficiency levels between these two types are not very distant, ranging between 2 – 5% based on the size and application. Read More
Global warming and the growing demand for energy are two primary problems rising in the power generation industry. A simple solution to these problems has been researched for a number of years. The SCO2 Brayton cycle is often looked into as an alternative working fluid for power generation cycles due to its compactness, high efficiency and small environmental footprint. The usage of SCO2 in nuclear reactors has been studied since the early 2000s in development of Generation IV nuclear reactors, but the idea itself can be traced back to the 1940s. During this time however, no one really looked into the potential of supercritical CO2 since steam was found to be efficient enough, not to mention it was the more understood technology when compared to SCO2. In modern times though, demand of more efficient energy continues to rise and with it, the need for SCO2.
The potential of supercritical CO2 implementation is vast across power generation applications spanning nuclear, geothermal and even fossil fuel. The cycle envisioned is a non-condensing closed loop Brayton cycle with heat addition and rejection inside the expander to indirectly heat up the carbon dioxide working fluid. Read More
People are pushing turbine inlet temperature to extremes to achieve higher power and efficiency. Material scientists have contributed a lot to developing the most durable material under high temperatures such as special steels, titanium alloys and superalloys. However, turbine inlet temperature can be as high as 1700˚C  and cooling has to be integrated to the system to prolong blade life, secure operation and achieve economic viability.
A high pressure turbine can use up to 30% of the compressor air for cooling, purge, and leakage flows, which is a huge loss for efficiency. It is worth it only if the gain of turbine inlet temperature can outweigh the loss of cooling. This applies to both aviation engines and land based gas turbines.
The history of turbine cooling goes back 50 years and has evolved to fit different environments. The diversity of turbine cooling technology we see today is just the tip of the iceberg. As time goes on and technology advances, people are able to achieve higher cooling efficiency at lower coolant usages. For different goals and needs, different constructs can be applied but the detailed cooling design must balance with the whole system and make the most of technological advances in the areas. For example, if the flow path is optimized, mechanical design is modified, or if new material is employed, the cooling design needs to change accordingly. One thing worth mentioning is that manufacturing of hot section components and turbine cooling design have an interdependent cause and effect, outpacing and leading each other to new levels. Merging of disciplines and additive manufacturing will, in the future, bring more flexibility to turbine cooling design.
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.
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.
– 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
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:
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.
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.
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.
Steam 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: