Discussion – Alien Signal or Radio Noise: Leveraging Turbomachinery

The Internet practically exploded early yesterday morning with talk of an extraterrestrial discovery after a signal was detected by a Russian telescope. The star in question, HD 164595 located a vast 95 light years away, sent out a strong radio spike that was picked up and sparked a boom of excitement. According to an article published by National Geographic, however, this signal may not be what it was first interpreted as.

Astronomers have pointed their radio telescopes towards the stars for over half a century, hoping to catch a glimmer of life beyond this planet. Short of a futuristic rocket ship, these telescopes seem to be the best bet for catching a peak of something out of this world. That is a main causStarse as to why this discovery is so tantalizing to both scientists and the rest of us earthlings. However, after further investigation, neither the Allen Telescope Array, commanded by the SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute, nor the Green Bank Telescope, used by the Breakthrough Listen project, turned up additional signals or observations.

Another issue that has risen according to this article is that the signal did not repeat and could have been caused by something else. A source on Earth, such as a faulty power supply, military transmission, or arcing electrical fence for example. Another possible explanation could be that gravity from another object in space amplified a weaker signal. That being said, it would appear that HD 164595 is similar in many ways to our sun. It is composed of the same ingredients, is approximately the same age and has at least one planet in its orbit. This would suggest that theoretically, it would be plausible for life to exist within this system.

It’s safe to say that most of us hope to have an answer to the question of whether there is civilization somewhere in the sweeping unknown. Here at SoftInWay, we may not have a futuristic rocket ship stashed away, but we do hope to one day play a role in assisting these scientists find theiRocket Engine Thingyr answer. Perhaps, one day, SoftInWay can design and provide guidance on the rocket engine turbopump that will help us soar into new discoveries and exploration. Until then, we’ll provide the tools and guidance suited towards present needs  and future goals. If your branch of work falls under the scope of aerospace, or if you find rockets as cool as we do, our upcoming webinar will interest you. It is being offered towards the end of September and provides an overview of rocket engine turbopumps, from preliminary blade design to CFD and rotor dynamics using our AxSTREAM® platform.


Feel free to click on the link below for the full article. What are your thoughts on the matter discussed in the article? Share your comments below!

Article Link – http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/seti-signal-sun-like-star-hercules-aliens-life-space-science/


The Economic Optimization of Renewable Energy

Global warming has been a very popular topic these days. With up-trend of clean technology and realization that strict climate policy should be implemented, demand of renewable energy sky-rocketed as conservative plants popularity falls. Number of coal power plants have significantly dropped since its peak era, being known as the largest pollutant contributor as it produces nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide, the technology is valued less due to its impact on nature. Renewable energy comes from many sources: hydropower, wind power, geothermal energy, bio energy and many more. The ability to replenish and having no limit in usage and applications make renewable energy implementations seems attractive. Aside from that, they also produce low emission, sounds like a win-win solution for everyone. Theoretically, with the usage of renewable energy, human-kind should be able to meet their energy need with minimal environmental damage. With growth rate ranging from 10% to 60% annually, renewable energy are getting cheaper through the technology improvements as well as market competition. In the end, the main goal is still to generate profit, though these days taking impact on nature into the equation is just as important. Since the technology is relatively new, capital cost still considerable higher compared to some cases with more traditional (–and naturally harmful) implementations. So the question is: how to maximize the economic potential of a renewable energy power generation plant?

The Economic Optimization of Renewable Energy

Living up to the maximum potential of any power generation plant starts in the design process. Few examples for solar power plant: designers should take into consideration type and quality of panels, it’s important to see the economic-efficiency tradeoff before jumping into investment; looking into the power conversion is also one of the most important steps, one should take into consideration that it would be worthless to produce more energy than the capacity that are able to be transferred and put to use, though too low energy generation would mean less gross income.

Another example, for a geothermal power plant, many studies have shown that boundary conditions on each components play a big role in determining the plant’s capacity and efficiency. High efficiency is definitely desired to optimize the potential of a power plant and minimized the energy loss. Though, should also be compared to the economic sacrifice; regardless of how good the technology is, if it doesn’t make any economic profit, it would not make sense for one to invest in such technology. Low capital cost but high operating expenses would hurt the economic feasibility in the long run, whereas high capital cost and low operating expense could still be risky since that would mean a higher lump sum of investment upfront, which might or may not breakeven nor profitable depending on the fluctuation of energy market.

Modern technology allows investors and the engineering team to make this prediction based on models developed by the experts. SoftInWay just recently launched our economic module, check out AxCYCLE to optimize your power plant!


[1] Optimal design of geothermal power plants 

[2] Strategies in tower solar power plant optimization

Looking Back at SoftInWay’s 2015

Happy New Year! The holiday season and 2015 have come to a close, and it has been quite a year. In this post, we are taking a look back at some of the greatest developments we have accomplished this year at SoftInWay. Take a look at the list and see if you missed anything, and stay tuned for a look at some of our plans and goals for 2016!

1. SoftInWay Turbomachinery University

Early in 2015, we launched STU, an innovative learning portal that provides online training for optimal turbomachinery design and analysis. STU consists of video courses on a variety of subjects, and corresponding exams. We have added 4 full courses in the past year. STU also features all recorded SoftInWay webinars and discounted versions of our software. Find STU here.

2. Software Upgrades

Our Software Platforms, AxSTREAM and AxCYCLE have become even more sophisticated in the last year. AxSTREAM, now version, has seen the addition of brand new capabilities, including Rotor Dynamic analysis and Bearing design.
AxCYCLE, now version 4.230, saw a major upgrade at the end of 2015 in the form of a new Module for Economic Analysis. The Module performs the estimation of cost and economic efficiency of power plants. It is the first tool of its kind in the industry.

3. Growing Team

SoftInWay expanded it’s team this year with new members in three of our offices. We have grown both our sales and technical teams for more efficient client communication and project execution. We are so happy to welcome our new teammates, and look forward to adding even more in 2016!

4. And more!

There are too many things to list! So here are a few more:
– We had our most successful webinars this year with a record number of registrants and attendees.
– We attended old and new conferences all of the world and at them published a number of papers and presentations.
– Our networking event at Turbo Expo in Montreal was a huge success. We hope to host more events in 2016 in new locations, including New York City!

We wish everyone a very happy New Year. We’re looking forward to 2016 where we will continue to innovate and grow.

Upcoming Webinar: Power Plant Cost Estimation

Cost Estimation and Economic Analysis for Power Plants

Thursday, January 21st | 10:00 – 11:00 AM EST

The Kendall Cogeneration Station in Cambridge, MA

Registration is open for our first webinar of 2016.

The processes of power plant design, enlargement, and redesign must consider certain factors, such as technological scheme, basic cycle parameters, equipment configuration, and fuel type. These factors have long reached beyond the scope of the technical and physical, and must consider economic criteria. Economic indicators are fundamental when selecting a specific solution. Therefore, even at the initial stages of a project, engineering problems should be considered in parallel with the assessment of economic efficiency. In addition, a power plant is a very complex entity, and introductory capital costs cannot be the only economic criteria considered. The economic indexes over the entire lifecycle of the plant must be accounted for.

The modern world has seen extensive investment in the field of cost estimation. The approximate estimation of cost and economic efficiency of a power plant, however, is a complicated and time-consuming process. It demands a high level of knowledge and information.

In order to simplify this process, and make it available for the engineering community, SoftInWay, a leading turbomachinery solutions provider, developed the new AxCYCLE Module for Economic Analysis. This webinar will demonstrate the module and discuss its extensive capabilities and applications.

We look forward to a great webinar and your challenging questions. Please register ahead of time and if you have any specific questions, let us know during the registration so that we can try to incorporate the answers into our presentation.


Release of New Economic Module at Power-Gen 2015

Will we see you at POWER-GEN 2015?
POWER-GEN International 2015 is only one month away! We are finalizing plans for our trip to Las Vegas, where we will be exhibiting and demonstrating our latest company developments.

SoftInWay has had several major recent developments that we will be featuring at the conference. Here are a few:

  • We will be releasing our newest module DURING Power-Gen! This new AxCYCLE economic module provides power plant equipment cost estimation as well as investment analysis of plant construction. The module features opportunities for user-defined data use, the incorporation of the user’s models for equipment cost estimation, and comparisons of cash flow charts with alternative projects. It will be a key tool for turbomachinery industry decision-makers, who must not only consider machine efficiency, but also the price of construction, redesign, or component replacement. The module will be launched and demonstrated at the conference.
  • In September we released three new modules: AxSTREAM Bearing, Rotor Design, and RotorDynamics. These modules allow for the design of turbomachinery rotors and bearings, and for rotor dynamic analysis.

Come to booth 1014 to learn more about these, and other, developments.  Or stop in for a short demonstration of our software. Would you like to schedule an in-depth meeting with our team during the conference? Email us at info@softinway.com.

Explaining the Binary Power Cycle

Geothermal energy is known to be a reliable and sustainable energy source. As the world gives more attention to the state of the environment, people lean towards using more energy sources which have little to no impact on nature. Where it is true that currently no other energy source can outperform fossil fuel due to its energy concentration, geothermal energy is a good prospect as a temporary substitute until a better form of energy supply is found.

There are two types of geothermal power sources; one is known as the steam plant and the other is the Binary cycle. Binary cycles have the conceptual objectives of: high efficiency — minimizing losses; low cost to optimize component design; and critical choice of working fluid. This particular type of cycle allows cooler geothermal supply to be used, which has a huge benefit since lower temperature resources are much more common in nature.

blog - binary power1blog - binary power2







The way a binary cycle works can be explained using the diagram shown above. Since the temperature of geothermal source is not high enough to produce steam, hot water is fed into a heat exchanger. From there, secondary liquid with lower boiling water than water i.e. isobutane, absorbs the heat generated. As the steam of secondary liquid moves the turbine, electricity will then be produced. This whole process repeats in a cycle since the secondary fluid will then condense back to its liquid state and being used for the same process.

From the process described above, it can be seen that binary cycle is a self-contained cycle — ‘nothing’ goes to waste. This fact leads to the potential of having low producing cost energy source from binary power cycle. That being said, due to the lower temperature, the conversion efficiency of the geothermal heat is also considerably low. Consequently, Carnot efficiency of such process is lower than most power cycles. Large amount of heat is required to operate a binary cycle, leading to a better and larger equipment. Not only that since a bigger amount of heat energy has to be let out to the environment during the cycle, a sufficient cooling system must be installed. Although the production cost is found to be lower, the investment cost for installation would be very expensive. Then, the main question to this particular technology implementation would be how to improve the quality of production and economic feasibility?

First, one of the main aspect of binary power cycle is to overcome water imperfection as a main fluid. Consequently choosing optimal working fluid is a very essential step. Characteristic of optimal working fluids would include a high critical temperature and maximum pressure, lower triple-point temperature, sufficient condenser pressure, high vaporization enthalpy, and other properties.

Second, it was studied on multiple different events that well-optimized ORCs perform better than Kalina cycles. The type of components chosen in the cycle also affect the cycle performance quite substantially, i.e plate heat exchanger was found to perform better in an ORC cycle in the geothermal binary application compared to shell-and-tube. Addition of recuperator or turbine bleeding also have the potency to improve the overall performance of a binary cycle plant. It is important to model multiple thermodynamic cycle to make sure that the chosen one is the most optimized based on the boundary conditions. While designing ranges of thermodynamic cycles, it is common that the cycle is modeled based on ideal assumptions. For binary cycle in geothermal application, plant efficiency would be the most important parameter. In order to achieve a desired plant efficiency, both cycle efficiency and plant effectiveness should be maximized.

Additionally, pinch-point-temperature between condenser and heat exchanger is a substantial aspect to pay attention to, even the smallest change of in temperature is considered a significant change. Thus, including this parameter is a very important aspect.

This particular cycle has many potentials which haven’t been explored. Enhance the advantages of your binary power cycle using our thermodynamic tool, AxCYCLE.


What Turbomachinery does to Avert Climate Change (Part 2 of 2)

Last week I described two ways which the turbomachinery industry addresses climate change. This week, I explain two more:

  1. Waste Heat Recovery

Even though processes are becoming more and more efficient they are still mostly wasteful (Figure 1).

Figure 5 Typical energy distribution in a system
Figure 1 Typical energy distribution in a system

The excess energy from processes is eventually released into the environment but bringing down the temperature of the exhaust allows multiple things; direct reduction of the global warming potential as well as possibility to utilize this heat to boil a working fluid before running it through a turbine where it can generate some power without requiring burning additional fuel. A well-known example of such a system is the traditional gas-steam cycle that allows turning a 45% efficient gas turbine cycle into a 60% system by utilizing the gas turbine exhaust heat to boil some water in a secondary loop before passing the resulting steam through a different turbine. In the same manner waste heat recovery can be applied with different fluids (including the trending refrigerants like R134a & R245fa, steam and the state-of-the-art supercritical CO2 as shown on Figure 2) and a multitude of applications; internal combustion engines, steel production plants, marine transports, etc.

Figure 6 Example of a simple, recuperated Brayton, supercritical CO2 cycle that uses the exhaust flow of a gas turbine to heat its working fluid
Figure 2 Example of a simple, recuperated Brayton, supercritical CO2 cycle that uses the exhaust flow of a gas turbine to heat its working fluid
  1. Selection of the best working fluid

Whether it’s deciding to design the main energy conversion cycle or its waste heat recovery system one of the critical parameters to pay close attention to is the working fluid selection; good selection of the fluid will often lead to make a compromise between cost/availability, thermodynamic performance (see Figure 3) and environmental friendliness. One must make sure that the performances of the designed cycle with the chosen fluid are high enough and the fluid cheap enough to make the concept financially viable without sacrificing pollution considerations which can prove devastating in case of leaks.

Figure 7 Example of a fluid performance comparison at different temperatures
Figure 3 Example of a fluid performance comparison at different temperatures

The working fluid selection is also performed so that in addition to the environmental footprint being reduced the physical footprint is minimized as well; this is done through the selection of high density fluids (helium, SCO, etc.) which allows for a reduction in component size and therefore cost (as portrayed on Figure 4), – indirectly it also allows for less material being produced which also “saves trees”.

Figure 8 Example of difference in power density between supercritical carbon dioxide (left) and steam (right) for a 10 MW power turbine
Figure 4 Example of difference in power density between supercritical carbon dioxide (left) and steam (right) for a 10 MW power turbine

What Turbomachinery does to Avert Climate Change (Part 1 of 2)

Most people complain about climate change, but few take measures to address it. In this article we will see some ways turbomachinery-oriented companies contribute to the well-being of the planet.

  1. Selection and optimization of energy conversion technology (recuperation, proper selection of expander configuration, etc.)

Not all technologies are created equal; where you would use a steam turbine is not necessarily where you would want a gas turbine or an organic Rankine cycle (ORC) instead. Each one of them has its pros and its cons; ORC exist because they do not require as much energy as what is needed for steam cycles, gas turbines have a great power density and an outstanding start-up time (several minutes instead of hours) which makes them great candidates for punctual, unexpected peaks in power demand, etc.

Figure 1 Simple Rankine cycle schematics
Figure 1 Simple Rankine cycle schematics

Now, take the case of a gas, steam or ORC; they all include, in their most basic configuration, a compressing element (compressor or pump), an expander (usually a turbine), a cooling/condensing component and a heating component (boiler, combustion chamber, HRSG, etc.) as one can see on Figure 1 and each of these have an associated efficiency.

This means that their careful design and thorough optimization should be performed in order to maximize the overall performance of the full system. Whether it’s used for power generation or propulsion the result is the same; more power generated for the same amount of heat input (usually the combustion of fuel). However, before starting the full design of the different components the entire system needs to be optimized as well; correct positioning of extractions/inductions, appropriate cooling parameters, use of recuperation/regeneration (see Figure 6), and so on.

Figure 2 Recuperated Rankine cycle
Figure 2 Recuperated Rankine cycle


Only when the cycle boundary conditions (and therefore its configuration) are fixed the full design of the components can be performed although some preliminary studies should be undertaken to determine the feasibility of these designs and get an estimation of the components performances. Another goal of such feasibility studies is to determine such things as the estimated dimensions of the components, the configuration of the expander (axial, radial, axi-radial, counter-rotating, etc.) Finally some compromises always need to be done between efficiency improvement and cost of manufacturing, operation and maintenance.




  1. Operation at optimal conditions (design point for overall cycle and each component)
Figure 3 Comparison of efficiency and power rating for axial and radial configurations of turbines
Figure 3 Comparison of efficiency and power rating for axial and radial configurations of turbines

Each energy conversion system whether it is for power generation, propulsion or any other application is designed for a set of operating conditions called a design point. This is where the system will typically be optimum for and where it will be running most of its “on” time. This is why ensuring that the design point (or design points) is accurately defined is critical since operation outside of these defined conditions will lead to additional losses that translate into a lesser power production for the same cost of input energy. Performance prediction of systems at off-design conditions is an essential part of any design task which allows restricting system operation to conditions of high components efficiency. If the pump/compressor is operated at a different mass flow rate its pressure ratio will be different and so will be the efficiency and therefore the amount of power generated by the expander, see Figure 4.

Figure 4 Performance map of a centrifugal compressor showing its efficiency as a function of the mass flow rate for different rotation speeds
Figure 4 Performance map of a centrifugal compressor showing its efficiency as a function of the mass flow rate for different rotation speeds

In our next post, we will continue the discussion of the turbomachinery industry as it relates to climate change. Stay tuned!

Event Roundup – Turbo Pump 2015

Last week, SoftInWay attended the Turbomachinery & Pump Symposia in Houston, Texas. The conference consisted of many fascinating displays and presentations. There was a lot to see and learn.

Our booth and team at the symposium
We noticed many new industry trends and patterns during our time in Texas, but some were more prevalent than others. One thing that caught our attention in particular: Utilities and Oil & Gas owners and operators want to do more with performance prediction independently of OEMs. This would cut out a middleman and allow owners and operators to cut time and costs within their projects.

Our tools provide modules needed to conduct performance prediction. Are you hoping to independently predict performance for your next project? We would love to talk to you. Send us an email to learn more about the capabilities of AxSTREAM and AxCYCLE.

Were you at the conference? Let us know what you noticed in the comments.

Upcoming Webinar: Design of Waste Heat Recovery Systems Based on Supercritical ORC for Powerful Engines

C836150Our next webinar is on October 8th! Join us as we discuss Design of Waste Heat Recovery Systems Based on Supercritical ORC for Powerful Engines.

Waste heat recovery is a hot topic (pun intended) that SoftInWay embraced rapidly. Numerous projects have been successfully performed on both the thermodynamic and the turbomachinery components levels.

In this webinar, we will discuss the case of a powerful ICE that can now benefit from a 20% boost in power due to waste heat recovery using a supercritical organic Rankine cycle (SORC). Different configurations, levels of complexity and parameters are studied and compared for the thermodynamic cycle as well as different fluid. Moreover, to show you that SORC is the way to go the results obtained are compared to what would be obtained with a different type of WHR system; double-pressure water steam cycle.

The session will include:

  • Introduction to the powerful ICE considered and its waste heat sources
  • Working fluid and parameters selection for the waste heat recovery system (WHRS)
  • Comparison of different configurations of WHRS SORC
  • Preliminary design of the turbine(s)

Who should attend?​

  • Engineers actively contributing to making their processes more efficient.
  • Engineers working in the mechanical, aerospace, automotive, marine, power generation industries who want to optimize their process equipment by utilizing untapped heat.
  • Engineering students looking for a comprehensive and state-of-the-art case study to optimize existing equipment allowing them to widen and deepen their understanding of waste heat recovery to meet the requirements of future employers.