Gas Turbine Cooling Technology

Turbine Cooling Scheme Designed in AxSTREAM NET
Figure 1. Turbine Cooling Scheme Designed in AxSTREAM NET

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 [1] 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.

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What Happened to R22?

R-22Freon (brand name by DuPont) used to be the regulated and most used refrigerant in the HVAC market. The chemical (R-22) was introduced to the refrigerant system in 1920. It consisted of hydrogen, carbon, fluorine and chlorine. HCFC was used in replacement to CFC or chloro-fluoro-carbon which is considered more dangerous. Within a few years, HCFC took over CFC’s role as the safer option.

Even though it was found to be safer than the alternative at the time, various recent studies state that R-22 is detrimental to the environment as it is a substantial ozone depleting substance that leads to greenhouse effects. Since January 2015, the maintenance or servicing of existing refrigeration, air condition and heat pump equipment using R22 has been prohibited by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and related international agencies. Based on the Montreal Protocol, which prevents more damage to the ozone layer by banning all ozone deteriorating substances, R22 can no longer be used in any kind of application.

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History of Refrigeration

RefrigerationIn its natural state, heat flows from higher to lower temperature regions. Refrigeration cycles are utilized to modify or reverse this cycle, using work obliging heat to flow with the direction that is desired, and align with increasing temperature from low temperature region to higher.

During the earliest records of the “cooling” process being invented, people harvested ice to refrigerate, cool and conserve food. As time progressed, humanity’s basic needs changed and new ways to manipulate temperature started being explored. Major research into refrigeration began with the creation of pup to create a partial vacuum container which absorbs heat from the air. That being said, while the experiment was successful it did not have any practical applications.

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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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Alternative Refrigerants to R-22

Gas tanks
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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.

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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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Compressor Types in Air Conditioning Systems

Compressor for HVAC
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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.

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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:

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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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