Micro Gas Turbines – Addressing the Challenges with AxSTREAM

During the last decade the development and extensive use of unmanned air vehicles (UAV) has accelerated the need for high performing micro gas turbines. In fact, their large energy density (Whr/kg) makes them attractive not only for UAV application, but also for portable power units, as well as for distributed power generation in applications where heat and power generation can be combined.
Micro gas turbines have the same basic operation principle as open cycle gas turbines (Brayton open cycle). In this cycle, the air is compressed by the compressor, going through the combustion chamber, where it receives energy from the fuel and thus raises in temperature. Leaving the combustion chamber, the high temperature working fluid is directed to the turbine, where it is expanded by supplying power to the compressor and for the electric generator or other equipment available [1].

Regarding the design of micro gas turbines, there are several challenges that need to be overcome. First, scaling is a common technique to define larger or smaller geometries with similar characteristics. However, a simple scaling of a high performance large gas turbine is not the right way to go for a good micro gas turbine design. One of the main reasons is the big change of the Reynolds number, as well as the heat transfer between the hot and cold components, which is not negligible [2].

Moreover, the high rotational speed that is needed to obtain the enthalpy and pressure changes prescribed by the gas turbine cycle constitutes a major mechanical problem. As far as geometrical constraints are concerned, material and manufacturing technique selection is crucial in order to lower the cost of the production, since micro gas turbines need to compete with heavier but cheaper batteries in many cases (i.e. for UAV applications). Finally, another major issue in micro gas turbines is the decrease of compressor and turbine efficiency with decreasing dimensions.

To address the above challenges and ensure a robust design, powerful tools are needed. AxCYCLE allows the user to design, analyse and optimize the thermodynamic cycles of the micro gas turbines and export the boundary conditions to AxSTREAM software platform for design and optimization of the components. The integration of preliminary design, CFD, FEA, and rotordynamic modules along with the simulation of cooling and secondary system flows under one common platform gives the power of controlling the overall design process while decreasing significantly the engineering time. Request now for a demonstration of AxSTREAM and speak to our engineers for additional details on the design process.


[1] http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/54444

[2] “Micro Gas Turbines – A Short Survey of Design Problems”, R.A. Van den Braembussche, von Kármán Institute for Fluid Dynamics

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