Drilled Nozzle Application in Supersonic Turbines

Most designers associate drilled nozzles in turbomachinery with something exotic, uncharted, and specific only to a minuscule amount of high-loaded turbines operating with a high-pressure drop. Meanwhile, many engineers are not aware that this nozzle design has been applied since the very first turbomachines.

Karl Gustaf Patrik de Laval patented a turbine with asymmetric convergent-divergent nozzles in 1888. At that time the shape of the nozzle allowed him to reach more effective kinetic energy transformation and have an entirely new level of turbine performance.

Figure 1 - Laval Turbine with Drilled Nozzles
Figure 1 – Laval Turbine with Drilled Nozzles. Source

Over a hundred years later, drilled nozzles (or asymmetric nozzles, Laval’s nozzles) have been extensively used in rocket engines, flying vehicles, driving turbines, ORC turbines, and other units for which low cost and weight-dimension constraints play an important role.

Despite the wide application range of turbines with these nozzles, each has its own specific features.

Drilled Nozzles

The main characteristics of drilled nozzles in a turbine (Fig. 2) are the partial admission input, high heat drop per first stage, low reaction, and a low number of stages.

Fig. 2 - Turbine with Drilled Nozzles Flow Path in AxSTREAM
Fig. 2 – Turbine (with Drilled Nozzles) Flow Path in AxSTREAM®

For these turbines, the most critical point during the design process is the first nozzle design. The first supersonic nozzle provides the throughput of the turbine. The main kinetic energy transformation and the main portion of the available isentropic heat drop relates to the first nozzles. As a result, the Mach number at the outlet section of nozzles can reach 3.0 and even be higher. To operate in such regimes, the convergent-divergent vane channels are preferable. Read more