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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Performance Simulation and Optimization of CCPP with Turbine Inlet Air Cooling

It is well established that the performance of combustion air turbines (gas turbines) is sensitive to ambient air temperature. As the ambient air temperature increases beyond standard design point  (ISASLS), the power output and exhaust gas flow rate reduces while the heat rate and exhaust gas temperature increases. While the trends are similar for heavy duty and aeroderivative gas turbines, due to the inherent nature of design the results are steeper for aeroderivatives.  Various types of turbine inlet cooling technologies such as evaporative cooling, refrigerated inlet cooling and thermal energy storage systems have been practiced with varying degree of success, each having its potential advantages and limitations.  Simplicity and cost advantage gained in evaporative cooling is offset by limitation of cooling along web bulb depression line (and is a function of site relative humidity). Refrigerated inlet cooling (direct and indirect) offer advantage of higher cooling and lesser sensitivity to site conditions, and result in greater power output with an impact on relative cost and complexity. Selection of optimum technology of turbine air inlet cooling is hence a tradeoff between competing factors.

Combined Cycle
Combined Cycle Power Plant

The complexity of combined cycles, without any turbine inlet air cooling, poses significant challenge in design of steam system and HRSG due to competing factors such as pinch point, heat and mass flows optimization etc. Knowledge of fluid viz properties of standard air (psychrometrics), standard gas for Joule Brayton cycle, steam for bottoming Rankine cycle and refrigerant for cooling system( for refrigerated inlet air cooling) as applied to complete cycle makes the process complete as well as complex. AxCYCLE™ is one such unique tool to simulate such combined cycle processes with multi fluid-multi phase flows including refrigeration. The standard HVAC features can easily be used for inlet air cooling refrigeration and integrated into the CCPP. Once a digital representation of the complex process is replicated and successfully ‘converged’ at design point, the challenge of optimization emerges. To facilitate optimization various tools namely AxCYCLE™ Map, Quest, Plan and Case are embedded integrally. As a first cut, users based on their experience apply AxCYCLE™ Map and vary one or two parameters to see the effect of operational parameters on cycle performance. AxCYCLE™ Quest opens the gates by allowing users to vary unlimited parameters, according to quasi-random Sobol sequences. mutli-Parameter optimization tasks are possible using AxCYCLE™ Plan – it uses design of experiments concepts. Once optimized the AxCYCLE™ Case tools allows off design simulation tasks. Exhibit below represents complexity of a combined cycle plant represented conveniently:

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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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What’s the Biggest Problem in the HVAC Industry?

HVAC in the Sky with DiamondsWhen asked about problems rising in the HVAC industry, people typically point to the availability of trained workers or labor force. The growth of the HVAC industry brings more open jobs into the market. According to a report by U.S Department of Labor, by 2020, this particular market should bring about 90,000 new jobs in the industry. With that being said, the spike in work doesn’t necessarily align with quantities of qualified workers. Even with strong job security and above average pay, HVAC doesn’t seem to attract too much young potential. In the past year, the HVAC industry has lost thousands of workers, not only from the lagging economy, but also due to the work force available. Currently, the average age of the entire 7.5 million HVAC workforce is around 55 years old, which is much older than the normal workforce.

With the rate of how quickly technology in the HVAC industry is currently growing, the pool of talent in the market can’t quite seem to catch up. Day by day due to increasing demand and competition, leading companies in this industry is required to come up with new design and new technology with better efficiency, easier operation, and better control is needed. Demanding increase in technology does not meet with the current available skill pool. As a result, the hiring process for skilled labor takes considerably longer. Finally, once you take into account calculation of training and orientation, the entire hiring process requires a lot of investment both in time and money.

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Analytical Tools for Determination of Damped Unbalanced Rotor Response

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Representative Rotor Response Plot (API Standards) & Analytical Simulation

Lateral rotor-dynamic behavior is the most critical aspect in determining the reliability and operability of rotating equipment in the oil and gas industry – be it a centrifugal pump , compressor, steam or gas turbine, motor or generator. One way to evaluate operating reliability is identifying lateral rotor response to unbalance, i.e. by analytically determining damped unbalanced rotor response. Torsional response is sought only for train units comprising three or more coupled machines (excluding any gears). Experience suggests that the effect of other equipment in the train is normally not included in the lateral damped unbalanced response. Hence brief summary of various characteristics and a technique for analytical predictions of lateral behavior deserves attention by all.

The purpose of damped unbalanced rotor response is to identify critical speeds, associated amplification factors-AF (as per API standards AF greater than or equal to 2.5 is considered critical) and ability of rotor dynamics system to meet the separation requirements (margin of operating speed away from critical speed/s). The first step is ‘undamped’ unbalance response analysis for identifying mode shapes and critical speed-support stiffness map.  ‘Damped’ unbalanced response analysis then follows for each critical speed within the speed range of 0 % to 125 % of trip speed. Unbalance or side load is placed at the locations that have been determined by the undamped analysis to affect a particular mode most adversely. The magnitude of the unbalances is four times the value of U as calculated by U = 6350 W/N. The aim then is to identify the frequency of each critical speed, frequency-phase and response amplitude data, deflected rotor shape due to unbalance and bode plots to compare absolute shaft motion with shaft motion relative to the bearing housing (support stiffness <  3.5 times the oil-film stiffness).

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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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Simultaneous Design for Turbocharger Compressors and Turbine Wheels

AxSTREAM Blade Profiling
Figure 1- AxSTREAM 3D Blade Profiler for Radial Designs

Increasing regulation for reducing emissions has forced the automotive industry to accept different technologies over the years in order to stay ahead of the market. In an industry that is so accustomed to internal combustion engines, new solutions such as electric motors and turbocharger systems have allowed experts in other industries to cultivate an influence in the automotive market. Specifically in the realm of turbomachinery, increased development has gone into designing turbochargers in order to minimize the effect and size of internal combustion engines. Design challenges are inherent in the fact that an engine is a positive displacement device whereas the turbocharger falls under aerodynamic turbomachinery. The two separate machine types have distinctly different flow characteristics, and the proper sizing of a turbocharger for its parent engine requires proper modeling of the engineering system as a whole.

In general, initial turbocharger sizing becomes a matter of obtaining the necessary boundary conditions required for a preliminary design. A thermodynamic cycle analysis of an ICE-Turbocharger system will allow the designer to obtain an initial idea of the bounds

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Steam Heat & Mass Balance Considerations in Refineries

Optimizing the heat and mass flow i.e. steam balance in a plant that has several levels of steam pressures is not a simple task due to the vast array of equipment such as turbines, heat exchanges, steam auxiliaries and accessories used. The steam balance of a refinery plant is further complicated because of use of steam for chemical processes and compression. Depending on processor licensor, technologies and many other traditional factors, it is not uncommon to see steam pressure levels defined in refineries as simply HP & LP or HP,MP & LP or as complex as VHP, HHP, HP, MP and LP.

The traditional approach to designing a steam system is to install steam generators able to generate steam at the maximum pressure and temperature with enough redundancy in capacity as required by the process. Modern steam generators tend to be inclined towards higher pressure steam rather than lower pressure steam – saturated high pressure steam has higher temperature meaning  less exchange surface in heat exchangers and reboilers, high density of high pressure steam requires less bore in the steam mains. Consequently, the usage of high pressure steam represents less capital expenditure. The resultant philosophy is to generate steam at the highest possible temperature and pressure, expand steam from a higher pressure to a lower pressure level through the most efficient means possible and use process at the lowest economically attractive pressure and temperature.

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Aircraft Engines: A Need for Increased Performance and Safety

Turbine engine of airplaneThe necessity for a robust aircraft engine design is strongly associated with not only flight performance, but also to passengers’ safety. The fatigue on the blade of CFM56 engine did not prove to be fatal in last August’s incident. None of the 99 passengers was hurt, but parts of the engine broke apart damaging the fuselage, wing and tail, and forcing the Boeing Co. 737-700 to an emergency landing. However, that was not the case in July 6, 1996, when the left power plant on a Boeing MD-88 broke apart while accelerating for take-off and the shrapnel was propelled into the fuselage killing a mother and a child seated in the Delta Air Lines Inc. aircraft [1]. A few years earlier, in January 8, 1989, a CFM56-3 blade failure proved to be fatal for 47 out of 118 passengers of the British Midlands Airways (BMA) Ltd Flight 92 departed from London Heathrow Airport en route to Belfast International Airport. Based on Federal Aviation Administration’s accident overview [2] post-accident investigation determined that the fan blade failed due to an aero-elastic vibratory instability caused by a coupled torsional-flexural transient non-synchronous oscillation which occurs under particular operating conditions. An animation describing this process is available at the following link: (Fan Blade Failure).

The last example [3] of this not so cheerful post took place on July 29, 2006, when a plane chartered for skydiving experienced jet engine failure and crashed. Tragically, there were no survivors. The failure was attributed to aftermarket replacement parts. The aircraft was originally equipped with Pratt & Whitney jet engines, specifically made with pack-aluminide coated turbine blades to prevent oxidation of the base metal. However, during the plane’s lifetime, the turbine blades were replaced with different blades that had a different coating and base metal. As a result of the replaced turbine blade not meeting specification, it corroded, cracked and caused engine failure.

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Outlook for the Future HVAC Market

HVAC image 1

According to the new market research report, the industry of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is predicted to rise at a solid, stable compounding annual growth rate of 5.9% up to the year 2022. With the growing trend of smart homes and changing weather conditions, cooling equipment is expected to remain the largest major share of the entire HVAC market taking around 70% of the entire market totaling to a prediction of 24.28 Billion USD  – including coolers and room air conditioners.

With global warming and increased temperatures taking effect, demand for cooling systems continues to rise in geographical areas where weather is a significant factor, such as Asia Pacific. Countries such as China, Japan and India are significantly driving the growth of this market, as the automotive air conditioning sector plays an important role in these geographical areas as they are still the leaders of the automotive manufacturers by volume.  Rise in middle income (and improvement of environmental standard) in developing countries also push the construction boom and replacement of older technology in air conditioning.

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