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

Waste Heat Recovery

During industrial processes, an estimated 20 to 50% of the supplied energy is lost, i.e., by dumping the exhaust gas into the environment [1]. The waste heat losses and the potential work output based on different processes including but not limited to the ones shown in Figure 1. Does it REALLY have to be thrown away? Sometimes yes, other times no. In this blog post, we will focus on the “no” through a process  called “Waste Heat Recovery”.

Waste heat losses and work potential of different process exhaust gases - Image 1
Figure 1: Waste heat losses and work potential of different process exhaust gases [US Department of Energy [2]]
Some well-known examples of waste heat recovery processes are found in turbochargers in cars or a heat recovery steam generator. One simple structure of application is when a heat exchanger is fed with the exhaust gas of a turbine, therefore being cooled down before being released into the air. This heat exchanger is part of a secondary (bottoming) cycle where another turbine provides additional power output without having to burn additional fuel. This heat exchanger is part of a secondary cycle where another turbine provides additional power output. Read More

Scaling and Trimming in Axial Compressors and Fans

Introduction

Despite the deepening understanding of the essence of gas-dynamic processes and the development of computational methods, simpler design methods such as scaling and trimming remain in demand in turbomachinery engineering. The main advantage of these approaches over design from scratch is simplicity and its inexpensive nature due to the small-time expenditure and lower demand from computational resources. Good predictive accuracy of the performance and efficiency of the resulting machines is based on the use of an existing machine with well-known characteristics as a prototype.

Conversely, using the prototype imposes restrictions on the use of scaling and trimming methods. It is almost impossible to get a new design with pressure and efficiency higher than that of the prototype. Also, in cases where it is required to obtain performance that is significantly different from the prototype, the inherent reliability of the original prediction may be insufficient.

Scaling Method

Easy to apply and general, valid, scaling laws are needed for design and application engineers. The scaling laws are needed for the purposes of:

  1. Predicting the full-scale performance machine from model test data obtained from a scaled machine
  2. Obtaining a family of machines with different performances on the basis of one well-tested machine

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Experimental performance and efficiency testing on a full-size model of large machines such as fans to ventilate tunnels and mines or to move combustion air and smoke gas in power plants may be impractical due to the high energy costs and geometric limitations of the experimental stand. In these cases, a scale model is used. And although complete similarity is not maintained, for example, in terms of the Reynolds number, the correction factors in most cases are well known and the prediction accuracy is high.

The method involves the implementation of the flow path of the designed fan or compressor on a scale to the prototype. This means that all linear dimensions (e.g. diameters, blade chord, axial length, etc.) must be multiplied by the scaling factor (SF). The angular dimensions (e.g. blade angles at inlet and outlet, stagger angle, etc.) remain unchanged.

When scaling, it is assumed that parameters such as Pressure Ratio, circumferential velocity (U), and axial velocity (Cz) are equal for the designed machine and the prototype. Thus:

Trimming and Scaling Formula 1

The condition of equality of the Reynolds criteria is not ensured, since the designed compressor and the prototype do not have the same diameters of the rotor with the equality of other parameters that determine the number of Rew. This design guarantees the practical accuracy of the calculated characteristics, provided that the gas movement in the flow path is turbulent. It is known that for “physical” values of the Reynolds numbers

Trimming and Scaling Formula 2

the flow remains turbulent and the inequality of the Reynolds numbers of the designed compressor and the prototype has little effect on the gas-dynamic characteristics.

To determine the efficiency of low-pressure fans, a well-known formula is usually used:

Trimming and Scaling Formula 3

An example of obtaining a stage of an axial compressor by the scaling method is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Axial Compressor Stage Scaling
Figure 1 – Axial Compressor Stage Scaling

The disadvantages of the scaling method include the need to change the rotor speed. This can be relevant for industrial installations, where the rotation speed is often limited and tied to the frequency of the electrical network current. Additionally, the need to change the overall dimensions can be a limiting factor, especially if it is necessary to increase productivity significantly, and the installation location for the turbomachine is limited. In some cases, maintaining full geometric similarity is impossible for technological or constructive reasons. For example, the minimum value of the tip clearance may be limited by the operating conditions of the rotor (not touching the rotor against the housing) or the impossibility of obtaining a small clearance if the scaling is carried out from a large prototype to a small model.

Read More

Considerations for Electric Aircraft Fan Design

Due to concerns about air travel’s impact on climate change, research and development into electric aircraft has been ongoing for several years. Within the last decade several startups as well as larger corporations have been developing electric or hybrid electric aircraft (Ros, 2017). The ultimate goal is to Conduct long (>500 miles), full-electric commercial flights with large aircrafts capable of carrying 100’s of passengers, but this will require at least 5-10 more years of development. Luckily, smaller electric aircraft designed for short-range flights (<500 miles) with anywhere from 1-20 passengers have already been tested successfully utilizing electric batteries, a hybrid-electric system and even a hydrogen fuel cell.  With these advances, emission-free air travel is closer than you think.

Electric Aircraft

Examples of full-electric aircraft designs include the Airbus E-Fan 1.0 and E-Fan 1.1 (Airbus Group), shown in Figure 1. These two-person aircraft utilize two ducted, variable-pitch fans, shown in Figure 2. Each fan is powered by a 30-kW electric motor. The motors are powered by several lithium-ion battery packs stored in the wings. While the aircraft only provides an hour of flight time, the batteries can recharge in approximately one hour and can be easily be swapped in and out.

Figure 1: Airbus E-Fan (Airbus Group)
Figure 1: Airbus E-Fan (Airbus Group)
Figure 2: E-Fan ducted fan (Varmin, 2014)
Figure 2: E-Fan ducted fan (Varmin, 2014)

There are several reasons besides climate change why electric aircraft should be developed from a business perspective (Figure 3). Short and mid-range regional flights make up a significant portion of all flights around the world.  The current flight range of electric aircraft is limited to these short and mid-range fights. Additionally, shorter flights spend relatively more time taking off and landing than cruising at high altitudes, which makes shorter trips less energy efficient. While short, regional flights are economically unattractive for large commercial aircraft, a smaller aircraft with less fuel consumption may provide a valuable alternative. Read More

Compressors in Fuel Cell Systems

Previous Blog

As we covered in our previous blog about fuel cell systems, a large contributor to their efficiency is the compressor that is selected for it. But what are the different kinds of compressors, and which one is best for a specific system?

Compressors have a wide variety of designs and types, which differ in pressure and performance, depending on the kind of compressed fluid. Compressors are also classified according to the type of work: dynamic and positive displacement. Figure 1 shows the types and classification of compressors.

Figure 1 Compressor Types
Figure 1: Compressor Types. Source: Dongdong Zhao, “Control of an ultrahigh-speed centrifugal compressor for the air management of fuel cell systems” 5 Jun 2014, p. 8.

Figure 2 shows a comparison of various types of compressors according to several criteria: generated pressures, occupied volume, lubrication requirements, compressor weight, and pressure ripples at the outlet.

Comparisons of Compressors
Figure 2: Comparison of Compressors. Source: Dongdong Zhao, “Control of an ultrahigh-speed centrifugal compressor for the air management of fuel cell systems” 5 June 2014, p. 13.

As can be seen from the comparison above, we can conclude that centrifugal compressors offer a number of advantages over its positive displacement counterparts:

  1. Lightweight;
  2. Small volume;
  3. Only the bearings require lubrication;
  4. Creates a sufficiently high pressure (1.5…6 bar);
  5. Has high efficiency (80…82%); and
  6. Has a fairly wide performance range.

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Next, we will consider the application of the centrifugal compressor in the fuel cell system. Read More

An Introduction to Fuel Cells: What Are They, How Do They Work, and How Can We Improve Their Efficiency?

Next Blog

Alternative energy based on the use of fuel cells is gaining more and more popularity and is increasingly being used in the automotive, aerospace, and energy industries as well as other sectors of the economy.

What is a Fuel Cell?

Fuel cells (FC) are electrochemical devices which convert the chemical energy of a fuel directly into usable energy – electricity and heat – without combustion. This is quite different from most electricity-generating devices (e.g., steam turbines, gas turbines, reciprocating engines), which first convert the chemical energy of a fuel to thermal energy via combustion, then into mechanical energy, and finally to electricity.

Fuel cells are similar to batteries containing electrodes and electrolytic materials to accomplish the electrochemical production of electricity. Batteries store chemical energy in an electrolyte and convert it to electricity on demand until the chemical energy has been depleted.

Fuel cells do not store chemical energy. Rather, they convert the chemical energy of a fuel into electricity. Thus fuel cells do not need recharging, and can continuously produce electricity as long as fuel and an oxidizer are supplied.

A prototype fuel cell is shown below in Figure 1.

Fuel Cell
Figure 1: Fuel Cell. Source

What is the operating principle of a fuel cell?

Today, there are two types of electrolytes used in fuel cells: acid or alkali. The type also depends on the chemical reactions that take place in the element itself. Read More

Saving the Planet, One Turbine Simulation at a Time

This is an excerpt from the Siemens Blog. You can read the full version here.

Originally written By Erik Munktell  on January 14, 2021

 

Listening to the turbine experts: a review of 2020

Can a turbine simulation save the planet? One simulation alone is not enough. But one simulation with that intent can inspire other engineers and researchers to do the same. This butterfly effect is happening today in turbine design.

I live in Sweden, the same country as Greta Thunberg. Her message is that we must act now to save the planet. For a long time, Sweden’s electricity has come mainly from Hydropower and Nuclear power. But lately a lot of focus has still been on building wind and solar power plants. Here in Sweden we also have more trees being grown than being cut down. As a result we are close to being carbon negative, transportation and industry included.

With this country-wide energy focus friends often ask me why I work with gas turbines. Surely, they are not needed?  I rarely get them to listen to my answer for more than a few minutes, as in my enthusiasm it quickly gets technical! But in short – I do it to save the planet. Or rather, we do it to save the planet. Because I am not alone in this effort. Many people work on making turbines run more efficiently, with fewer – or even no – polluting emissions. We can’t do everything by ourselves, but our work can inspire others and together we can create a clean energy future.

My small part in this plan is to make sure the actual makers of gas turbines have the best tools in the world for designing new and better electricity generating or flight enabling propulsion products. In this blog, I take a look at the many ways we saw in 2020 that turbine companies are using our simulation tools to do just that.

Read More

Optimization of the Closed Supercritical CO2 Brayton Cycle with the Detailed Simulation of Heat Exchangers

Recently scientists and engineers have turned their attention again to carbon dioxide as a working fluid to increase the efficiency of the Brayton cycle. But why has this become such a focus all of a sudden?

The first reason is the economical benefit. The higher the efficiency of the cycle is, the less fuel must be burned to obtain the same power generation. Additionally, the smaller the amount of fuel burned, the fewer emission. Therefore, the increase in efficiency also positively affects the environmental situation. Also, by lowering the temperature of the discharged gases, it is possible to install additional equipment to clean exhaust gases further reducing pollution.

So how does all of this come together? Figure 1 demonstrates a Supercritical CO2 power cycle with heating by flue gases modeled in AxCYCLE™. This installation is designed to utilize waste heat after some kind of technological process. The thermal potential of the exhaust gases is quite high (temperature 800° C). Therefore, at the exit from the technological installation, a Supercritical CO2 cycle was added to generate electrical energy. It should be noted: if the thermal potential of waste gases is much lower, HRSG can be used. More information on HRSG here: https://blog.softinway.com/en/introduction-to-heat-recovery-steam-generated-hrsg-technology/

Any cycle of a power turbine installation should consist of at least 4 elements : 2 elements for changing the pressure of the working fluid (turbine and compressor) and 2 elements for changing the temperature of the body (heater and cooler). The cycle demonstrated in Figure 1 has an additional regenerator, which makes it possible to use a part of the heat of the stream after the turbine (which should be removed in the cooler) to heat the stream after the compressor. Thus, part of the heat is returned to the cycle. This increases the efficiency of the cycle, but it requires the introduction of an additional heat exchanger.

The heat exchangers used in the sCO2 cycle are of three basic types: heaters, recuperators, and coolers. Typical closed Brayton cycles using sCO2 as the working fluid require a high degree of heat recuperation.

Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle with Heating by Flue Gases
Figure 1 – Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle with Heating by Flue Gases

Having examined this scheme and examined the process in detail, we can draw the following conclusions about the advantages of this cycle which is demonstrated in Figure 2: Read More

Vertical Pumps: What Are They, Where Are They Used and How To Design Them?

Introduction

Vertical pump designs are similar to conventional pumps, with some unique differences in their applications.  Pumps use centrifugal force to convert mechanical energy into kinetic energy and increase the pressure of the liquid. Vertical pumps move liquids in the vertical direction upwards through a pipe. All pumps pressurize liquids, which are mostly incompressible. Unlike compressible gases, it is impossible to compress liquids, therefore the volumetric flow rate can not be reduced. Therefore liquids are transported by pumping and the inlet volume flow rate is equal to the exit volume flow rate.

Vertical centrifugal pumps are simply designed machines, and have similarities to their horizontal counterparts. A casing called a volute contains an impeller mounted perpendicularly on an upright (vertical) rotating shaft. The electric drive motor uses its mechanical energy to turn the pump impeller with blades, and imparts kinetic energy to the liquid as it begins to rotate. These pumps can be single stage or multistage with several in-line stages mounted in series.

The centrifugal force through the impeller rotor causes the liquid and any particulates within the liquid to move radially outward, away from the impeller center of rotation at high tangential velocity. The swirling flow at the exit of the impeller is then channeled into a diffusion system which can be a volute or collector, which diffuses the high velocity flow and converts the velocity into high pressure. In vertical pumps, the high exit pressure enables the liquid to be pumped to high vertical locations. Thus the pump exit pressure force is utilized to lift the liquid to high levels, and usually at high residual pressure even at the pipe discharge.

Applications of Vertical Pumps

An “in line” vertical pump is illustrated in Figure 1 (Reference 1), where the flow enters horizontally and exits horizontally and can be mounted such that the center line of the inlet and discharge pipes are in line with each other.  This is a centrifugal pump with a tangential scroll at the inlet that redirects the flow by 90 degrees and distributes it circumferentially and in the axial direction into the impeller eye. The discharge is a simple volute that collects the tangential flow from the impeller exit, and redirects it into the radial direction.

in line Pump - Figure 1
An “in line” Vertical Pump. Source

Figure 2 shows a vertical pump that has a vertical intake that directs the flow straight into the eye of the pump rotor. At the impeller exit, the tangential flow is collected by a volute and diffused in an exit cone. An elbow after the exit cone redirects the flow into the vertical direction to lift the liquid to the desired altitude. (Reference 2). Read More

Back to Basics: What Makes a Good Pump?

Everyone is familiar with pumps, but how many people really think about how much depends on this ubiquitous invention? The scope of pump applications is wide: distribution and circulation of water in water supply and heat supply systems, irrigation in agriculture, in the oil industry, in fire extinguishing systems, etc.

A pump is a hydraulic machine designed to move fluid and impart energy to it. A schematic diagram of a simple pumping unit is presented below.

Figure 1 Pumping Unit Diagram
Figure 1: Pumping Unit Diagram
1 – intake valve; 2 – suction pipeline; 3 – vacuum gauge; 4 – pump; 5 – manometer; 6 – check valve; 7 – gate valve; 8 – pressure pipeline

Positive Displacement and Dynamic Pumps

According to the principle of operation, pumps can be divided into two main groups: positive displacement and dynamic. In positive displacement pumps, a certain volume of the pumped liquid is cut off and moved from the inlet to the pressure head, where additional energy is supplied to it. In pumps with dynamic action, the increase in energy occurs due to the interaction of the liquid with a rotating working body.

The most widely used pumps are centrifugal pumps which are of the dynamic type. The principle of centrifugal pumps uses a rotating impeller to create a vacuum in order to move the fluid. The impeller rotates within the housing and reduces pressure at the inlet. This motion then drives fluid to the outside of the pump’s housing, which increases the pressure.

These pumps benefit from a simple design and lower maintenance requirements and costs. This makes them suited to applications where the pump is used often or continuously run.

Figure 2 Centrifugal Pump
Figure 2a: Centrifugal Pump
Centrifugal Pump Designed using AxSTREAM
Figure 2b: Centrifugal Pump Designed using AxSTREAM

In most cases, the pumps are electrically driven, but if the pump is of high power and high speed, then these pumps are driven by steam turbines. Read More