[:en]The Brayton cycle is the fundamental constant pressure gas heating cycle used by all air-breathing jet engines. The Brayton cycle can be portrayed by a diagram of temperature vs. specific entropy, or T–S diagram, to visualize changes to temperature and specific entropy during a thermodynamic process or cycle. Figure 1 shows this ideal cycle as a black line. However, in the real world, the compression and expansion processes are never isentropic, and there is always a certain pressure loss in the combustor. The real Brayton cycle looks more like the blue line in Figure 1.
The four stages of this cycle are described as:
1-2: isentropic compression
2-3: constant pressure heating
3-4: isentropic expansion
4-0: constant pressure cooling (absent in open cycle gas turbines)
The most basic form of a jet engine is a turbojet engine. Figures 2a and 2b provide the basic design of a turbojet engine. It consists of a gas turbine that produces hot, high-pressure gas, but has zero net shaft power output. A nozzle converts the thermal energy of the hot, high-pressure gas at the outlet of the turbine into a high-kinetic-energy exhaust stream. The high momentum and high exit pressure of the exhaust stream result in a forward thrust on the engine. Read More
[:en]It is a well-known fact in the turbomachinery community that the highest temperature achievable at the inlet of the turbine is a critical performance parameter for the turbine. For any given pressure ratio and adiabatic efficiency, the turbine specific work is proportional to the inlet stagnation temperature. Typically, a 1% increase in the turbine inlet temperature can cause a 2-3% increase in the engine output.
The major limitation for the maximum achievable value of the turbine inlet temperature comes from the material used for the turbine. The maximum material temperature has to be kept in check for multiple reasons, from the physical integrity to the structural reliability, and resulting temperature needs to be less than the turbine blade material’s maximum temperature.
We as human kind have always aimed at achieving something better, something bigger. This led to the research on gas turbines, which was mainly inspired due to the immediate requirement in the aerospace and power generation industry, to also look beyond the scope of aeronautics.
Today gas turbine technology is often used when dealing with aerospace and power generation industries, but believe it or not, gas turbine technology has been used in ground transportation too; notably locomotives.
The Early Applications
After the first world war, several countries had the expertise and the finances to invest in achieving the technological edge in the new post war era. The gas turbine technology was one such technological endeavor, and by the mid-20th century the gas turbine could be found in several applications. Birth of gas turbine locomotives can be credited to two distinct characteristics of these locomotives versus the contemporary diesel locomotives. First, there are fewer moving parts in a gas turbine, decreasing the need for lubrication. This can also potentially reduce the maintenance costs. Second, the power-to-weight ratio is much higher for such locomotives which makes a turbine of a given power output physically smaller than an equally powerful piston engine, allowing a locomotive to be powerful enough without being too bulky.