Turbomachinery Design Strategies & Tips: How to Choose Between an Axial or Radial Configuration

From the electricity that charges our phones to the jet engines that propel airplanes across the sky, turbines can be found powering our modern world in various forms and configurations.  These mighty machines are the silent heroes of our energy infrastructure, found in everything from locomotives and power plants to industrial machinery and rocket engines. But what distinguishes one turbine from another? How do engineers decide on the design and configuration of these mechanical marvels? This intricate task requires an understanding of turbomachinery design, including axial and radial configurations. So, let’s dive into the differences between an axial and radial configuration.

Fig.1 Example of an axial turbine used in a jet engine. Source

In an axial turbine, the fluid (such as steam, gas, or water) flows along the rotation axis, similar to a windmill where the fluid enters and exits in the same direction. The turbine blades are arranged in stages along the rotor, with each stage converting the fluid’s energy into mechanical energy. Read More

Coupled Digital Engineering Solutions in Podracing: More Bang for your Republic Credits!

Authors note:  While I have the utmost respect for die-hard Star Wars fans, I must confess that growing up, Episode I was my favorite. Perhaps it was the allure of Darth Maul’s dual lightsaber, the adrenaline-pumping Podracing on Tatooine, or Natalie Portman (no elaboration needed) that captivated my young mind. Although May 4th has already passed this year, my love of Episode I combined with my upcoming presentation at JANNAF had me thinking that perhaps it’s time to revisit the engineering behind Podracers.

In a previous blog post, we explored the possibilities of redesigning Anakin’s Podracer. Back then, we discovered that the movie’s turbine and compressor design fell far below the mark. However, poor Ani didn’t have access to the advanced AxSTREAM® software platform for designing turbomachinery systems and components, nor did he possess the financial means to acquire top-of-the-line hardware (let’s be honest, Watto’s junkshop hardly exuded luxury).

Figure 1 Watto’s junkshop in Mos Espa, Tatooine
Figure 1 Watto’s junkshop in Mos Espa, Tatooine. Source

Today, we revisit the exhilarating world of Podracing, determined to avoid the disastrous fate that befell Ben Quadinaros’ craft.

Ben Quadinaros' unfortanate start
Figure 2 Ben Quadinaros’ unfortunate start. Source 

Now, many factors could have contributed to that unfortunate incident. For example, frustration-induced control slamming is never advisable… However, the most plausible explanation is a failure at one of the subsystem interfaces. Why do I think so? Simply because this is a common issue with modern systems, including vehicles. Everyone involved means well and possesses the necessary technical prowess to perform their individual tasks. However, problems often arise when these meticulously designed parts and subsystems attempt to interface seamlessly. This is precisely where a coupled digital engineering solution comes into play! Close your eyes (then reopen them to keep reading) and imagine a place where all critical propulsion and auxiliary components can be modeled together, accommodating any desired conditions (including those we cannot run with physical hardware on a test bench).

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Modifying Gas Turbines to Burn Hydrogen Fuel

Hydrogen fuel and renewable energy are becoming increasingly relevant in the gas turbine industry as the world shifts towards decarbonization. Hydrogen fuel, in particular, is seen as a promising alternative to traditional fossil fuels due to its clean-burning properties. As a result, many gas turbine manufacturers are exploring ways to modify existing engines to run on hydrogen or hydrogen mixtures. Additionally, the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power to generate hydrogen fuel is gaining traction, providing a sustainable solution for the gas turbine industry. These developments are crucial in reducing carbon emissions and meeting climate goals, making hydrogen and renewable energy an essential focus for the future of the gas turbine industry.

In light of these developments, one of the key methods to achieve decarbonization is to use a mixed renewable gas (e.g., green hydrogen, biogas, syngas) or pure hydrogen (in the future) as a fuel for stationary gas turbine engines (GTE) that generate electricity.

Figure 1: Heavy Duty Gas Turbine, AE94.3A (Ansaldo Energia) [1]
The main advantage of this method is that companies need not design and manufacture fundamentally new engines for hydrogen combustion. Instead, modifying the existing GTE fleet is sufficient. Another benefit of introducing hydrogen gas turbine technology is the possibility of using idle or underutilized equipment, thereby providing a new lifecycle. Read More

An Overview of Brayton Cycles

The open Brayton cycle is commonly used in gas turbine engines for power generation, aircraft propulsion, and industrial processes. The Brayton cycle, named after American engineer George Brayton, who proposed it in 1872, converts fuel energy into mechanical work. The Brayton cycle became widely used in practical applications following the development of the gas turbine in the 1930s. Gas turbines were used extensively during World War II, and their efficiency and reliability improved significantly.

The Brayton cycle has numerous advantages for energy applications. For one, engineers can design it compactly, making it a strong fit for tight enclosures. With gas turbines being a common engine driver, the Brayton cycle is popular in modern applications. Since Brayton cycle engines are particularly efficient in gas turbine engines, they are useful for power generation, aircraft and marine propulsion, industrial processes, and more.

Additionally, Brayton cycle motors produce few emissions thanks to their efficient exhaust gas treatment systems, making them a greener choice than other fossil fuel systems. Coupled with their high efficiency from the isentropic compression and expansion processes that minimize energy loss, engineers continue to develop Brayton thermodynamic cycle systems to this day.

There are two main types of a Brayton cycle: open and closed. In an open Brayton cycle, the working fluid is continuously supplied to and exhausted from the system, and the process operates in an open loop. On the other hand, in a closed Brayton cycle, the working fluid is contained within the system and circulates in a closed loop. The schematics of a simple open-cycle gas turbine utilizing an internal-combustion process and a simple closed-cycle gas turbine using heat transfer processes are both shown in figure 1.

Figure 1 - Open cycle (left) and closed cycle (right) for operating a Brayton cycle
Figure 1: Open cycle (left) and closed cycle (right) for operating a Brayton cycle (https://web.mit.edu).

An ideal Brayton cycle consists of the following four processes:

  1. Isentropic compression: air is compressed to high pressure and temperature via an isentropic process that is adiabatic and reversible.
  2. Constant pressure heat addition: high-pressure air is fed into a combustion chamber where fuel is added and ignited.
  3. Isentropic expansion: high-temperature gases from the combustion chamber expand in the turbine in an isentropic process, producing mechanical work.
  4. Constant pressure heat rejection: the exhaust gases are expelled into the atmosphere.

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Drones Among Us!

– Look! Up in the sky! – It’s a Bird! – It’s a Plane! – No! It’s… Oh it’s drones again…

If you hear a bzzzz annoying you, do not rush to look for the unfortunate fly to finish it off. Perhaps it is also troubled by the sound that this flying aluminium box makes.

Drones come in many forms, some harmless and some dangerous. Let’s look at which is which and discuss some of their unique features.

Drones are flying robots, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can fly thousands of kilometers, as well as small drones designed for confined spaces. Aerial vehicles that do not carry a human operator, fly either remotely or autonomously, and carry either lethal (non-friendly) or nonlethal (likely friendly) payloads are considered drones.

Figure 1 - An MQ-9 Reaper on a training mission in Nevada
Figure 1. An MQ-9 Reaper on a training mission in Nevada [3]
Depending on the flight missions of the drones, the size and type of installed equipment are different. Considerable advantages of drones have led to a myriad of studies focusing on the optimization and enhancement of the performances of these drones. According to the mentioned characteristics, drones benefit from the potential to carry out a variety of operations, including reconnaissance, patrolling, protection, transportation of loads, and aerology. Read More

A Comparison of Different Rocket Engine Cycles Throughout the Years


Throughout history, humans have had an insatiable desire to understand the world around them, including the stars. The science of rocketry has been developing for centuries, even predating our current era. Today’s rockets are the result of numerous experiments and the combination of many different areas of engineering. Few things can withstand the extreme conditions that rockets must endure, including the intense loads during launch and drastic temperature changes caused by cryogenic components and combustion chambers. Successful launches depend heavily on well-informed design decisions. The complexity and interdependence of the systems that must work together seamlessly in rocket design are unparalleled by any other engineering discipline. It is no coincidence that they say “rocket science” when it comes to something incredibly complex. Figure 1 displays numerous advanced rocketry systems over several decades.


Different Rocket
Figure 1 – Different Rocket Types. Source

Rocketry’s origins trace back to ancient China, where the first rockets were created around 100 AD. These early rockets were used during religious celebrations and produced colorful sparks, smoke, and explosions using gunpowder and bamboo tubes that were closed on one end. The first recorded use of rockets in warfare occurred during the Battle of Kai-Keng in 1232, where the Chinese used a primitive solid-fuel rocket to repel the Mongols. The rocket consisted of a closed tube filled with gunpowder attached to a long stick. Ignition of the gunpowder increased pressure inside the empty tube, and the hot gas and smoke had to escape through the open end. By the law of conservation of momentum, this creates thrust to propel the rocket towards the closed end of the tube, with the long rod as a primitive control system. Read More

Choosing the Best Environmental Control System When Designing an Aircraft

As human beings, we are very vulnerable to environmental conditions, especially those in the stratosphere. Unlike cockroaches (which seem oddly equipped for pretty much anything), humans cannot survive in extremely low or extremely high ambient pressures or temperatures. Perhaps the best minds of our generation didn’t immediately think “how can I be more like this indestructible insect”, but nevertheless technological advancements have helped us get one step closer to their tenacity…at least in stratospheric conditions. Technology does not stand still though and is constantly improving and with it, we’re given more choices and variety in environmental control systems.

Figure 1 – Environmental Control System in an aircraft [2]
When designing environmental control systems (ECS), it is very important to understand that the top priority of these systems is to provide safety and comfort under absolutely any conditions, whether flying over the Sahara Desert or Alaska. We are talking about a minimum of 75 kPa and 20-24 °C. Relative humidity should range from 15 to 60% [1].

The ECS is usually split in one air conditioning machine (ACM) pack per engine. The ACM size is dictated by the ventilation requirement of 6 (g/s)/pax minimum (e.g. 1.2 kg/s minimum for the 200 pax capacity of A320; some 2 kg/s is the typical design value). This air can be taken both from the engine and through separate air intakes (but that’s a completely different story). Read More

Stage Number Selection in Axial Aircraft Turbines

Choosing the number of stages during the development of axial turbines is one of the most controversial design tasks because it has many options to consider. This task does not have an exact solution, since it depends on the total turbine work, circumferential velocity and is determined by a combination of gas-dynamic, strength, construction, and technological factors. This blog will discuss some of the considerations for stage number selection of an axial turbine.

Using Stage Loading vs Parson’s Parameter

Designing turbines requires the use of complex parameters to simultaneously consider the influence of various factors on the characteristics of the turbine. Thus, the stage loading (mostly aircraft turbines) or the Parson’s parameter (stationary turbines and aircraft turbines) have been used for wide applications in turbines theory.

  • Stage loading is the ratio of the theoretical turbine work LU and the square of the circumferential velocity U.

­Stage loading Formula

  • Parson’s parameter y is the ratio of the circumferential speed to the speed equivalent to the isentropic heat drop.

­Parson's Parameter

High turbine efficiency is achieved, when these parameters are in the range μT = 1.2…1.6 (y=0.45…0.6), which can be seen in Figures 1 and 2 [1], respectively.

Figure 1 total to total turbine

Figure 2 Turbine Stage Hydraulic efficiency

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Fluid Swirl in Radial Channels of Turbomachines

Update – March 1, 2023: AxSTREAM NET is our legacy software replaced  by AxSTREAM System Simulation. System Simulation was born out of the union of the legacy AxCYCLE and AxSTREAM NET software packages.

Theoretical overview

In pumps, compressors, gas turbines, and powertrains with rotating parts, there are typically cavities between the spinning rotor and the fixed stator elements. The flow’s behavior at those cavities can significantly affect a machine’s temperatures, structural loads, vibrations, and overall efficiency. Similar radial cavities, where the flow is restricted between a rotating part and a non-rotating wall, are ubiquitous in the secondary flow channels of gas turbine engines (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Example of secondary flows in a gas turbine engine [1]
Figure 1 – Example of secondary flows in a gas turbine engine [1]
Careful planning of secondary flows can be extremely useful. For example, since secondary flows influence the pressure in cavities, flows can be designed to compensate for axial loads acting on the rotor. Additionally, flow rotation in secondary flow channels critically impacts blade cooling design. For these reasons, a solid understanding of the processes occurring in radial channels is vital for high-quality design and optimization. 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