Overcoming the Use of ICEs in Hybrid Electric Vehicles with Turbomachinery – Micro-Turbine Range Extenders

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.

Chrysler Turbine Car
Figure 1- Chrysler Turbine Car – Now at Display in the Walter P. Chrysler Museum

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.

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SoftInWay’s Role in Meeting the Future Needs of Steam Turbine Industry

Steam turbine technology has advanced significantly since it was first developed by Sir Charles Parson in 1884 [1]. 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

The Economics of Power Generation

Economics of Power GenerationThere are two crucial factors in any power generating system: performance and economy. As we know, higher efficiency is naturally more desirable, though higher efficiency plants usually come with the price of high cost investment. A power system would simply not be feasible should one neglect one of the two main factors. A highly efficient plant would not be feasible in practice if it gives no financial incentives to the producer as well as the end-user. A good power plant design must possess a good balance of efficiency and economy.

One of the main goals in power generation practice is to deliver the lowest possible cost per unit of electricity to meet the growing demand. Often in practice, economic assessment of a power plant is depicted by their levelized cost of energy (LCOE), also known as  levelized energy cost (LEC), which is the average price per unit of power delivered to break even with total cost (capital and operating) over the length of its operating lifetime.

Generally, cost factor which contributes to power generation can be categorized into two main groups: capital cost and operating charges. Capital cost (usually consisting of a series of fixed cost factors which do not vary with the level of output) encompasses equipment, rent/land cost, and any other costs associated with the establishment of the power generation plant, up until when it’s ready to operate. This is a critical data point needed for accurate investment decision making. Whereas operating cost (combination of fixed, semi-fixed and variable charges) covers all costs related to daily operational and/or production cost incurred – which should include maintenance, fuel, feed water, etc.

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An Insight into Organic Rankine Cycle Design

Nowadays, organic Rankine cycles (ORCs) are a widely studied technology. Currently, several research and academic institutions are focused on the design, optimization, and dynamic simulation of this kind of system. Regarding the numerical analysis of an ORC, several steps are required to select the optimal working fluid and the best cycle configuration, taking into account not only nominal performance indexes, but also economic aspects, off-design efficiency, the dynamic behaviour of the plant, and the plant volume or weight.

To begin, a detailed description of the heat source and heat sink, evaluation of all the technical constraints (component selection or plant layout), and both environmental and safety issues is needed. The most significant stage of the design is definitely the correct choice with both working fluid and cycle configuration. Making the wrong choice at this stage will result in poor cycle performance. A huge number of possible working fluids can be selected for ORC systems, which is one of the major advantages of these systems since they can be suitable for almost every heat source but, on the other hand, it makes the resolution of the optimization problem inevitably more complicated. Read More

The Use of SCO2 in Power Generation

Lab imageGlobal 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.
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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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Leveraging AxSLICE for Centrifugal Pump Upgrades and Retrofits

Often, service companies are faced with the challenge of redesigning existing pumps that have failed in the field with extremely quick turnaround times. While there are quick-fix methods to return these pumps into operation, other more complex problems may require taking a step back and analyzing how this particular pump could be redesigned based on its current operation.  These engineering upgrades could solve recurring issues with failure modes of a certain machine, and they could also solve new capacity demands that are imposed by a customer based on their system’s upstream or downstream changes. While efficiency increases could be beneficial to the overall system, many times it is more important to solve capacity requirements and increase the life of the pump by decreasing the Net Positive Suction Head Required (NPSHr).

In this blog post, we will investigate how to move an existing centrifugal pump through the AxSTREAM platform in order to solve engineering challenges seen on common OEM pump upgrades.  With the use of AxSTREAM’s integrated platform and reverse engineering module, many of the CAE tasks that are common in an analysis such as this one can be realized in record speed. The first step of the reverse engineering process occurs in obtaining the necessary geometrical information for the desired pump. Through AxSLICE, the user can take an STL, IGES, CURVE file, or a generated cloud of points and properly transform this 3D profile into a workable geometry inside the AxSTREAM platform. In a matter of minutes, the user can outline the hub and shroud and transform a blank 3D profile into a profile defined by a series of segments.  Seen in Figure 1, the centrifugal pump is now defined by a hub, shroud, and intermediate section.

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Identifying Compressor Problems

Centrifugal Compressor for Refrigeration Because the most vital part of a refrigeration and HVAC system is to function optimally, compressors are used to raise the temperature and pressure of the low superheated gas to move fluid into the condenser. Consequently, refrigeration compressors must be properly maintained through regular maintenance, testing and inspection. There are a couple conditions which would indicate compressor problem or failures. However, with the right supervision it is possible to avoid further damage. Through this post we will identify and discuss some of these conditions:
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Helicopter Engines – Understanding the Constant Threats and Analyzing their Effects with AxSTREAM

Helicopter landing on a desert
Figure 1: Helicopter landing on a desert – burnout threat

The helicopter is a sophisticated, versatile and reliable aircraft of extraordinary capabilities. Its contribution to civil and military operations due to its high versatility is significant and is the reason for further research on the enhancement of its performance. The complexity of helicopter operations does not allow  priority to be given for any of its components. However, the main engine is key for a successful flight. In case of engine failure, the helicopter can still land safely if it enters autorotation, but this is dictated by particular flight conditions. This article will focus on the possible threats that can cause engine failure or deteriorate its performance.

When a helicopter is operating at a desert or above coasts, the dust and the sand can challenge the performance of the engine by causing erosion of the rotating components, especially the compressor blades. Moreover, the cooling passages of the turbine blade can be blocked and the dust can be accumulated in the inner shaft causing imbalance and unwanted vibration. The most common threat of this kind is the brownout which is caused by the helicopter rotorwash as it kicks up a cloud of dust during landing.

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The Benefits of a Variable Frequency Drive

Variable Frequency Drive is found to be very effective in assisting with energy management for HVAC systems. The main objective of this technology is to ensure that the motor only generates enough energy to power the compressor and no more. VFD provides constant load-matching capacity which results in the elimination of over-capacity running. Recently studied, current variable frequency drive benefits goes beyond the advantage of energy savings or energy efficiency. In conventional common application, the installation of variable frequency drive saves about 35% to 50% energy used by matching system capacity to the actual load.

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