Rotor Dynamics for Turbomachinery Engineers

A rotor is a body suspended through a set of cylindrical hinges or bearings that allow it to rotate freely about an axis fixed in space. It is the most critical component of any rotating machine; often operating at high speeds and within a wide speed range (Figure 1). Rotor dynamics is the branch of engineering that studies the lateral and torsional vibrations of rotating shafts. The main purpose of rotor dynamics is to predict the rotor vibrations and keep the vibration level under an acceptable limit. To meet stringent reliability requirements, each step of the rotor design should be based on an accurate rotor dynamics prediction.

Figure 1 The components of a rotating machine
Figure 1 The components of a rotating machine, [1]
A rotor dynamics analysis should accomplish several goals. It should predict critical speeds at which vibration due to rotor unbalance is severe and should be avoided. Relatedly, it should suggest modifications that would allow designers to increase a machine’s critical speeds. Rotor dynamics analysis should also predict natural frequencies of torsional vibration, as well as amplitudes of synchronous vibration caused by rotor unbalance. In addition, the analysis should predict dynamic instability (including oil whip), and suggest design modifications to suppress it. Lastly, the analysis should recommend balance correction masses and locations from measured vibration data. Read More

An Introduction to Pipe Diffusers in Centrifugal Compressors

A pipe diffuser is a special type of radial vane diffuser and is widely used in centrifugal compressors of gas turbine engines. Employing pipe diffusers can lead to increased efficiency in centrifugal compressors by an average of 2-4% compared to other vaned diffusers. The efficiency gains are especially prominent at high-pressure ratios (over 5.0), toward which we are seeing a growing trend in gas turbine engines.

Pipe Diffuser and assembly
Figure 1 (left): Single flow path of pipe diffuser & Figure 2 (right): Pipe diffuser assembly

Figure Source: Stanislaw Antas, Exhaust System for Radial and Axial-Centrifugal Compressor with Pipe Diffuser, Int J Turbo Jet Eng 2016;

Pipe Diffuser Geometry

The initial part of a pipe diffuser is a cylindrical section (throat), followed by the conical diffuser (Figure 3). The axis of the pipe diffuser must be tangent to the circle created by the tip of the centrifugal compressor, i.e., the circle defined by the impeller tip radius R2. The leading edge of the pipe diffuser channel is elliptical due to the oblique intersection of the cylindrical throat with the cylindrical surface of the diffuser radius R3. This intersection design results in gradually adapting the effluent flow from the impeller to the flow through the cylindrical and conical sections of the diffuser. The downstream duct of a compressor with a pipe diffuser is a diffusing trumpet, also called a “fishtail” diffuser. Read More

Nozzle Cascades for Turbines: Types and Design Features

The gas turbine is a rotary heat engine with double conversion of energy. In guide vanes (nozzles), the potential energy of steam is converted into kinetic energy, which is then converted into mechanical work by rotating the turbine shaft (rotor). The turbine rotor drives the rotor of the consumer machine, like in alternators, compressors, pumps, etc. [1]

Scheme of Turbine Flow Path
Figure 1 Scheme of turbine flow path [Huzel D.K., Huang D.H. Modern engineering for design of liquid-propellant rocket engines.- American institute of aeronautics and astronautics – 1992. ]
To increase the efficiency of turbine installations one must increase the thermal efficiency of the cycle, as well as the efficiency of individual elements of the installation’s thermal scheme. A familiar method of increasing the efficiency of the thermal cycle is by increasing the temperature of the working fluid in front of the turbine. However, this not only requires using high-temperature materials, but also requires cooling the blade apparatus. As a result, installation costs increase, and the efficiency of the turbine stages decreases [2]. Read More

Aircraft Engine Oil Supply Systems

It is no secret that one of the key issues in aircraft engine building is the choice of bearing units. Depending on the type, such units receive the radial load, hold the weight of the rotor, and face axial forces due to the action of the flow path and the secondary flow’s static pressures. Rolling bearings are commonly used in aircraft engines.

Ball Bearing
Figure 1 – Ball bearing – https://www.kugellager-express.de/stainless-steel-deep-groove-ball-bearing-ss-6203-c3-open-oiled-17x40x12-mm

To ensure their uninterrupted operation in hard conditions and different modes of friction with contacting parts, it is necessary to provide bearings with proper lubrication on the one hand, and adequate heat removal on the other. Heat generates because the power consumed to drive bearings is almost entirely converted into a heat flow. Furthermore, in aircraft gas turbine engines, hot engine parts–like the combustion chamber and turbine–also heat the bearings.

Oil Systems and Components.

In aircraft engines, a closed circulation lubrication system is widely used. One exception to this trend can be found in single-acting engines, where the system may be open and non-circulating. In such systems, fuel can be used as a lubricant. Read More

How AI Improves Axial Compressor Map Generation

A performance map is a key step in the design process of axial compressors. Performance maps represent the compressor characteristics and are used for compressor turbine matching and stall margin evaluation. Maps can also be used to compare different compressors, in order to determine which design would be most suitable for a given application. To accomplish these goals, maps usually plot the pressure ratio against corrected mass flow rate and corrected rotational speed. The map has a left bound limit called the surge line, and a right bound limit called the choke line.

Compressor Map
Figure 1: Compressor Map [1]
Now, how exactly do we generate these maps? The traditional approach is through physical experiments. The early prototype or finalized design is integrated into a test rig, which has components like pressure sensors, mass flow gauges, throttles, and others. Such a machine is then run at different operating points, which in turn allows for the plotting of pressure ratios. Unfortunately, this approach is highly time-consuming and requires expensive equipment. Moreover, if the operator over-throttles the mass flow rate, the compressor may pass its surge line. This can lead to an explosive discharge at the inlet, and thus to severe damage. Read More

Gas Turbine Cooling System Design Procedures

Introduction

State-of-the-art gas turbine engines usually work under extremely high temperatures. This is directly related to efficiency of the gas turbines – in order to receive the maximum thermodynamics value, it is necessary to increase the gas temperature after the combustion chamber. Engine temperature can be higher than blades’ metal temp up to 500-600 K. Blades, nozzles, and the GT details are manufactured with special heat-resistant steels and in some cases, they require a special coating. That allows them to resist turning into liquid metal under these working temperatures like the T-1000 did in the “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” movie even under high temperatures :).

Picture 1 – T-1000 from Terminator 2
Picture 1 – T-1000 from Terminator 2. Source

However, metal has the property of “creep” – this is the tendency of hard metal to move slowly or permanently deform under stress. This occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to high stresses above the yield point, especially when exposed to high temperatures. Obviously, the solution to this problem is a cooling system for heat-stressed parts, which has allowed the gas temperature to increase by 600 K compared with uncooled machines. Since the gas turbines usually work with air, the simplest way to cool the system is by using this. Typically, the air exhausts to different parts of the compressors and is supplied to the cooling paths and blades which influence the thermodynamics efficiency of the gas turbine engine. Thus, it is crucial to ensure enough cooling to remove the heat on the one hand and on the other hand – to receive the lowest amount of air which requires cooling. Read More

Turbomachinery Evolution through Generative Design

As human-beings, our differences are what makes us unique (if I may quote the Seek Discomfort crew – “What makes you different is what makes you beautiful”). For turbomachines, this sentiment also rings true.  We design different turbomachines because we have varied roles, needs and constraints for them. To that effect, there is no universally best turbine, compressor, or pump. Therefore, figuring out which set of “skills” a turbomachine should have is the key role of a design engineer so that they may effectively capture and estimate performances of the machine they will work on early on while having the certitude this is the best that can be done.

Generative design is one of these recent buzzwords that characterizes an approach to the design of components (or systems) that has been around for quite some time already. Rather than producing one geometry for one value of each input (such as boundary conditions, flow coefficients, number of stages, etc.), generative design allows you to create thousands of designs within minutes that you can review, compare, and filter to select the one that best suits your needs. Let’s look at an example of an axial turbine design process comparing traditional preliminary design vs. generative design.

Approach 1 or what most companies call Traditional Preliminary Design,  is to look in textbooks and previous examples of what a given turbine for that application “should” look like. It may involve things like using Ns-Ds diagrams, load-to-flow diagrams, blade speed ratio vs. isentropic velocity ratio correlations, scaling/trimming existing designs, etc. These have served their purpose well enough, but they have their limitations which make them fairly challenging to really innovate. Such limitations include previous experience/data being restricted to a given fluid, relative clearance size, given configuration, lack of secondary flows, etc. A summary of a traditional preliminary design workflow (familiar to too many engineers) is presented below.

Summary of traditional preliminary design workflow
Figure 1 Summary of traditional preliminary design workflow

Now, we know that changing (ahem, improving) your workflow is not always easy. But growth happens through discomfort and switching to a generative design approach does NOT mean rebuilding everything your team has done in the past. What it effectively gives you is the confidence that the input parameters you finalized will provide not only the desired performance but the best ones that can be achieved (and it saves time too…a lot of time). From there, you can use these inputs in your current design software or you can continue the design process in our design platform, AxSTREAM® (meaning you can add generative design capabilities upstream of your existing workflow or replace parts/all of that workflow depending on what makes the most sense for you). You can pay your engineers to do engineering work, instead of visiting online libraries and guessing input parameters in hope they will find the needle in the haystack. Or, with generative design, you kind of look for haystacks and shake them until the needle falls off.

So, how does this work in AxSTREAM, you may ask? Very well, I may reply :D. Read More

Challenges in Aero Engine Performance Modeling

As is the case with every machinery, manufacturers want to improve their products. This is especially true for aero engines, where even a small improvement in fuel consumption can lead to an advantage on the market. But with any type of propulsion equipment, regulations also play an important role, specifically that certain noise levels or CO¬¬2 emissions should not be exceeded. These factors combine to make the process of developing and manufacturing an aero engine anything but simple. In today’s blog, we’ll take a look at these challenges in more detail and briefly touch upon development strategies to account for such challenges.

PW 1000G
Figure 1: BERLIN – APRIL 26, 2018: The stand of MTU Aero Engines and high-bypass geared turbofan engine family Pratt & Whitney PW1000G. Exhibition ILA Berlin Air Show 2018.

In general, engineers have two options to develop a better engine. The first is to create a completely new design, like implementing a geared turbofan, which takes a lot of time and research. An example of this is the PW1000G engine from Pratt and Whitney, which was in development during the late 1990s and had its first flight test in 2008 [1]. This approach is less common which is reflected by other manufacturers who are backing down from the idea of using geared turbofans due to weight and reliability concerns [2]. The second option and this is the common method, is to gradually improve existing engines. This however brings new challenges, because simply improving one engine component does not necessarily mean that part of the machine will work well together with the rest of the machine. Furthermore, the design process for aero engines is very time-consuming. A general overview is shown in Figure 1. The process starts with an assumption for certain performance characteristics, for example, efficiencies for a compressor. After that, a cycle analysis is performed where the design point and off-design behavior are determined. With the newly gained information, the design process of the single component takes place. Upon successful creation of the component which satisfies all requirements, the process moves to the test phase. In this phase, the designed machine will be evaluated through experimental testing or intensive CFD studies. Modifications will be made if necessary to reach the desired operating conditions. Since changes were made to the geometry, these changes need to be investigated in an additional cycle analysis to understand how they will affect the overall engine performance. This process repeats until a converged solution is found. Read More

The Evolution of Gas Turbines From the First Designs to the Latest Environmentally Friendly Development Trends: Part 2

Part 1

Gas Turbine Development Trends: Hydrogen Energy

Recent world trends related to the development of clean energy have led to an increased focus on the use of hydrogen as a cleaner fuel for gas turbines and with it, the need to develop gas turbine plants that can operate both on a mixture of hydrogen with natural gas and on pure hydrogen. The use of hydrogen as a fuel can significantly reduce COx emissions, but burning hydrogen with air increases the amount of nitrogen oxides NOx, therefore leading gas turbine manufacturers have made great efforts over the past decades to develop low NOx combustion technologies that can provide a high proportion of hydrogen content in the fuel, up to 100%.

Heavy Duty Gas Turbine, GT 26
Figure 7 Heavy Duty Gas Turbine, GT 26

In a modern gas turbine in a premixed combustor, operating conditions close to the lean-burn flammability limit are chosen to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx), where the lean-burn flammability limit is determined by whether or not a flame is ejected. The flame is blown off under the condition that the speed of the combustible mixture entering the combustion chamber is greater than the speed of the flame. The flame speed is highly dependent on the composition of the fuel, and in the case of hydrogen, the turbulent flame speed is known to be at least 10 times higher than that of a methane flame under gas turbine combustion chamber conditions due to its high diffusion and chemical reaction rate. In the case of gas turbine combustion chambers for power generation using natural gas, lean-burn combustion technology is mainly applied to reduce NOx (since NOx is exponentially dependent on the temperature in the combustion region), while gas turbines using fuel containing hydrogen (syngas ), are prone to flashback (flame speed is much higher than the speed of the incoming fuel mixture so that the flame moves back towards the entrance to the combustion chamber and nozzles). Previously, in such cases, combustion chambers without premixing were used to avoid the risk of damage and destruction of the nozzles and the entire system. In this case, a technique is applied that involves the injection of a large amount of steam or nitrogen to minimize the increase in NOx, but this, in turn, leads to a decrease in the temperature at the turbine inlet. Thus, for the latest hydrogen-fuelled gas turbines, leading manufacturers around the world have begun to develop special combustion technologies with pre-mixing or with special micro-mixers. Read More

The Evolution of Gas Turbines From the First Designs to the Latest Environmentally Friendly Development Trends: Part 1

Part 2

Gas turbines have a rich history and play a key role in many of the modern-day technology we rely on. Welcome to part 1 of this blog where we’ll look at the history and evolution of gas turbines and don’t forget to join us for part 2 (next week) which will take a deeper look into hydrogen energy and where these machines are headed. 

The First Industrial Gas Turbines

Gas turbines are unique in many respects. First, they are among the most ancient turbomachines in their idea (approximately the 15th century) and at the same time, quite young in terms of practical implementation (the turn of the 19th–20th centuries).

Prototypes of gas turbines, which included the so-called smoke machines, began surfacing as early as the 17th century. However, the starting point in the development of gas turbines can be considered to have taken place in 1791 when Englishman John Barber filed an application for a heat engine patent.[1].  The turbine was equipped with a chain-driven reciprocating compressor and had a combustor and turbine. Barber proposed the use of charcoal, gas, or other suitable fuels to produce inflammable gas. The gas from the producer went into a common receiver and then into the combustion chamber where it mixed with compressor air and was ignited. The resulting hot gasses were allowed to impose on a turbine wheel.  To prevent overheating of the turbine parts, provisions to cool the gas by means of water injection were incorporated. There is no record of this engine being built but, in any event, it is unlikely that it would have self-sustained because of the large power requirements of the reciprocating compressor.  A patent drawing of Barber’s device is shown in Figure 1 [2].

Figure 1 John Barber’s Gas Turbine. English Patent 1791 [2]
In 1872, Franz Stolze designed an engine with an axial compressor, an axial turbine on the same shaft, a heat exchanger, a gas producer, and a combustion chamber. The gas turbine unit (Figure 2) was created and designed to produce 200 hp at a speed of 2000 rpm. However, the tests were not successful and instead only produced 20 hp. [1] Read More