Electronics Elements

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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Gas turbine

Gas Turbine Working Principle

Gas turbine engines derive their power from burning fuel in a combustion chamber and using the fast flowing combustion gases to drive a turbine in much the same way as the high pressure steam drives a steam turbine. 

One major difference however is that the gas turbine has a second turbine acting as an air compressor mounted on the same shaft. The air turbine (compressor) draws in air, compresses it and feeds it at high pressure into the combustion chamber increasing the intensity of the burning flame. 

It is a positive feedback mechanism. As the gas turbine speeds up, it also causes the compressor to speed up forcing more air through the combustion chamber which in turn increases the burn rate of the fuel sending more high pressure hot gases into the gas turbine increasing its speed even more. Uncontrolled runaway is prevented by controls on the fuel supply line which limit the amount of fuel fed to the turbine thus limiting its speed.
The thermodynamic process used by the gas turbine is known as the Brayton cycle. Analogous to the Carnot cycle in which the efficiency is maximised by increasing the temperature difference of the working fluid between the input and output of the machine, the Brayton cycle efficiency is maximised by increasing the pressure difference across the machine. The gas turbine is comprised of three main components: a compressor, a combustor, and a turbine. The working fluid, air, is compressed in the compressor (adiabatic compression - no heat gain or loss), then mixed with fuel and burned by the combustor under constant pressure conditions in the combustion chamber (constant pressure heat addition). The resulting hot gas expands through the turbine to perform work (adiabatic expansion). Much of the power produced in the turbine is used to run the compressor and the rest is available to run auxiliary equipment and do useful work. The system is an open system because the air is not reused so that the fourth step in the cycle, cooling the working fluid, is omitted.

Gas turbines have a very high power to weight ratio and are lighter and smaller than internal combustion engines of the same power. Though they are mechanically simpler than reciprocating engines, their characteristics of high speed and high temperature operation require high precision components and exotic materials making them more expensive to manufacture.

Advantages of Gas Turbine Power Plant

  1. There is no need of boiler as in the case of a steam power generating plant. As the boiler is not used the auxiliaries associated with the boiler are also absent in the gas turbine power plant hence the design is much simpler than the steam power plant.
  2. For the same reasons as mentioned above, the size of the gas turbine power plant is much smaller than that of a same capacity steam power plant.
  3. The manufacturing, engineering, installation and commissioning costs are much lower. The running cost is also less than that of same rated steam power plant.
  4. As the design and construction are simpler than a same capacity steam power plant, the maintenance cost also smaller in the gas turbine power plant.
  5. Gas turbine itself is much simpler in design and construction than a steam turbine.
  6. This power plant can be started much quickly even in cold condition.
  7. In steam power plant the boiler is kept operative even at off-load condition because restarting a boiler is much expensive and time-consuming process. But in the case of a gas turbine power plant entire plant can be kept inoperative at offload condition. Hence, this system is free from standby losses.

Disadvantages of Gas Turbine Power Plant

  1. For running the gas turbine system, compressed air is required. When the plant runs, the compressor runs and supplies the required compressed air. But when the plant just starts its operation, there is no compressed air previously available but this required compressed air cannot be produced before the compressor is run. The drawback of the system can be overcome by running the compressor by some external means before actual starting the plant.
  2. In this system, a major part of the mechanical power developed by the gas turbine is utilized to run the compressor which causes the low output of the system.
  3. A major portion of the heat energy of fuel combustion is lost to exhaust air. The exhaust heat cannot be reutilized efficiently like as in the case of a steam power plant.
  4. The internal temperature of the combustion chamber is very high. This highly tempted part of the system reduces the overall life span of a gas turbine power plant compared to other forms of a power plant. 


Theory of operation 

In an ideal gas turbine, gases undergo four thermodynamic processes: an isentropic compression, an isobaric (constant pressure) combustion, an isentropic expansion and heat rejection. Together, these make up the Brayton cycle.

In a real gas turbine, mechanical energy is changed irreversibly (due to internal friction and turbulence) into pressure and thermal energy when the gas is compressed (in either a centrifugal or axial compressor). Heat is added in the combustion chamber and the specific volume of the gas increases, accompanied by a slight loss in pressure. During expansion through the stator and rotor passages in the turbine, irreversible energy transformation once again occurs. Fresh air is taken in, in place of the heat rejection.

If the engine has a power turbine added to drive an industrial generator or a helicopter rotor, the exit pressure will be as close to the entry pressure as possible with only enough energy left to overcome the pressure losses in the exhaust ducting and expel the exhaust. For a turboprop engine there will be a particular balance between propeller power and jet thrust which gives the most economical operation. In a jet engine only enough pressure and energy is extracted from the flow to drive the compressor and other components. The remaining high-pressure gases are accelerated to provide a jet to propel an aircraft.

The smaller the engine, the higher the rotation rate of the shaft(s) must be to attain the required blade tip speed. Blade-tip speed determines the maximum pressure ratios that can be obtained by the turbine and the compressor. This, in turn, limits the maximum power and efficiency that can be obtained by the engine. In order for tip speed to remain constant, if the diameter of a rotor is reduced by half, the rotational speed must double. For example, large jet engines operate around 10,000 rpm, while micro turbines spin as fast as 500,000 rpm.

Mechanically, gas turbines can be considerably less complex than internal combustion piston engines. Simple turbines might have one main moving part, the compressor/shaft/turbine rotor assembly (see image above), with other moving parts in the fuel system. However, the precision manufacture required for components and the temperature resistant alloys necessary for high efficiency often make the construction of a simple gas turbine more complicated than a piston engine.
More advanced gas turbines (such as those found in modern jet engines) may have 2 or 3 shafts (spools), hundreds of compressor and turbine blades, movable stator blades, and extensive external tubing for fuel, oil and air systems.

Thrust bearings and journal bearings are a critical part of design. They are hydrodynamic oil bearings or oil-cooled rolling-element bearings. Foil bearings are used in some small machines such as micro turbines and also have strong potential for use in small gas turbines/auxiliary power units.


A major challenge facing turbine design is reducing the creep that is induced by the high temperatures. Because of the stresses of operation, turbine materials become damaged through these mechanisms. As temperatures are increased in an effort to improve turbine efficiency, creep becomes more significant. To limit creep, thermal coatings and superalloys with solid-solution strengthening and grain boundary strengthening are used in blade designs. Protective coatings are used to reduce the thermal damage and to limit oxidation. These coatings are often stabilized zirconium dioxide-based ceramics. 

Using a thermal protective coating limits the temperature exposure of the nickel superalloy. This reduces the creep mechanisms experienced in the blade. Oxidation coatings limit efficiency losses caused by a buildup on the outside of the blades, which is especially important in the high-temperature environment. The nickel-based blades are alloyed with aluminum and titanium to improve strength and creep resistance. The microstructure of these alloys is composed of different regions of composition. 

A uniform dispersion of the gamma-prime phase – a combination of nickel, aluminum, and titanium – promotes the strength and creep resistance of the blade due to the microstructure. Refractory elements such as rhenium and ruthenium can be added to the alloy to improve creep strength. The addition of these elements reduces the diffusion of the gamma prime phase, thus preserving the fatigue resistance, strength, and creep resistance.


Jet engines

     Airbreathing jet engines are gas turbines optimized to produce thrust from the exhaust gases, or from ducted fans connected to the gas turbines. Jet engines that produce thrust from the direct impulse of exhaust gases are often called turbojets, whereas those that generate thrust with the addition of a ducted fan are often called turbofans or (rarely) fan-jets.

Gas turbines are also used in many liquid propellant rockets, gas turbines are used to power a turbopump to permit the use of lightweight, low-pressure tanks, which reduce the empty weight of the rocket.

Turboprop engines

A turboprop engine is a turbine engine that drives an aircraft propeller using a reduction gear. Turboprop engines are used on small aircraft such as the general-aviation Cessna 208 Caravan and Embraer EMB 312 Tucano military trainer, medium-sized commuter aircraft such as the Bombardier Dash 8 and large aircraft such as the Airbus A400M transport and the 60 year-old Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber.

Aeroderivative gas turbines

Aeroderivatives are also used in electrical power generation due to their ability to be shut down and handle load changes more quickly than industrial machines. They are also used in the marine industry to reduce weight. The General Electric LM2500, General Electric LM6000, Rolls-Royce RB211 and Rolls-Royce Avon are common models of this type of machine.

Amateur gas turbines

Increasing numbers of gas turbines are being used or even constructed by amateurs.
In its most straightforward form, these are commercial turbines acquired through military surplus or scrapyard sales, then operated for display as part of the hobby of engine collecting. In its most extreme form, amateurs have even rebuilt engines beyond professional repair and then used them to compete for the Land Speed Record.
The simplest form of self-constructed gas turbine employs an automotive turbocharger as the core component. A combustion chamber is fabricated and plumbed between the compressor and turbine sections.

More sophisticated turbojets are also built, where their thrust and light weight are sufficient to power large model aircraft. The Schreckling design constructs the entire engine from raw materials, including the fabrication of a centrifugal compressor wheel from plywood, epoxy and wrapped carbon fibre strands.

Several small companies now manufacture small turbines and parts for the amateur. Most turbojet-powered model aircraft are now using these commercial and semi-commercial microturbines, rather than a Schreckling-like home-build.

Auxiliary power units

APUs are small gas turbines designed to supply auxiliary power to larger, mobile, machines such as an aircraft. They supply:
  • compressed air for air conditioning and ventilation,
  • compressed air start-up power for larger jet engines,
  • mechanical (shaft) power to a gearbox to drive shafted accessories or to start large jet engines, and
  • electrical, hydraulic and other power-transmission sources to consuming devices remote from the APU.

Industrial gas turbines for power generation

Industrial gas turbines differ from aeronautical designs in that the frames, bearings, and blading are of heavier construction. They are also much more closely integrated with the devices they power— often an electric generator—and the secondary-energy equipment that is used to recover residual energy (largely heat).
They range in size from portable mobile plants to large, complex systems weighing more than a hundred tonnes housed in purpose-built buildings. When the gas turbine is used solely for shaft power, its thermal efficiency is about 30%. However, it may be cheaper to buy electricity than to generate it. Therefore, many engines are used in CHP (Combined Heat and Power) configurations that can be small enough to be integrated into portable container configurations.
Gas turbines can be particularly efficient when waste heat from the turbine is recovered by a heat recovery steam generator to power a conventional steam turbine in a combined cycle configuration. The 605 MW General Electric 9HA achieved a 62.22% efficiency rate with temperatures as high as 1,540 °C (2,800 °F). Aeroderivative gas turbines can also be used in combined cycles, leading to a higher efficiency, but it will not be as high as a specifically designed industrial gas turbine. They can also be run in a cogeneration configuration: the exhaust is used for space or water heating, or drives an absorption chiller for cooling the inlet air and increase the power output, technology known as Turbine Inlet Air Cooling.
Another significant advantage is their ability to be turned on and off within minutes, supplying power during peak, or unscheduled, demand. Since single cycle (gas turbine only) power plants are less efficient than combined cycle plants, they are usually used as peaking power plants, which operate anywhere from several hours per day to a few dozen hours per year—depending on the electricity demand and the generating capacity of the region. In areas with a shortage of base-load and load following power plant capacity or with low fuel costs, a gas turbine powerplant may regularly operate most hours of the day. A large single-cycle gas turbine typically produces 100 to 400 megawatts of electric power and has 35–40% thermal efficiency.

Industrial gas turbines for mechanical drive

Industrial gas turbines that are used solely for mechanical drive or used in collaboration with a recovery steam generator differ from power generating sets in that they are often smaller and feature a dual shaft design as opposed to single shaft. The power range varies from 1 megawatt up to 50 megawatts. These engines are connected directly or via a gearbox to either a pump or compressor assembly. The majority of installations are used within the oil and gas industries. Mechanical drive applications increase efficiency by around 2%.
Oil and Gas platforms require these engines to drive compressors to inject gas into the wells to force oil up via another bore, or to compress the gas for transportation. They're also often used to provide power for the platform. These platforms don't need to use the engine in collaboration with a CHP system due to getting the gas at an extremely reduced cost (often free from burn off gas). The same companies use pump sets to drive the fluids to land and across pipelines in various intervals.

Compressed air energy storage

One modern development seeks to improve efficiency in another way, by separating the compressor and the turbine with a compressed air store. In a conventional turbine, up to half the generated power is used driving the compressor. In a compressed air energy storage configuration, power, perhaps from a wind farm or bought on the open market at a time of low demand and low price, is used to drive the compressor, and the compressed air released to operate the turbine when required.

Turboshaft engines

Turboshaft engines are often used to drive compression trains (for example in gas pumping stations or natural gas liquefaction plants) and are used to power almost all modern helicopters. The primary shaft bears the compressor and the high speed turbine (often referred to as the Gas Generator), while a second shaft bears the low-speed turbine (a power turbine or free-wheeling turbine on helicopters, especially, because the gas generator turbine spins separately from the power turbine). In effect the separation of the gas generator, by a fluid coupling (the hot energy-rich combustion gases), from the power turbine is analogous to an automotive transmission's fluid coupling. This arrangement is used to increase power-output flexibility with associated highly-reliable control mechanisms.

Radial gas turbines

In 1963, Jan Mowill initiated the development at Kongsberg V├ąpenfabrikk in Norway. Various successors have made good progress in the refinement of this mechanism. Owing to a configuration that keeps heat away from certain bearings the durability of the machine is improved while the radial turbine is well matched in speed requirement.

Scale jet engines

 With this in mind the pioneer of modern Micro-Jets, Kurt Schreckling, produced one of the world's first Micro-Turbines, the FD3/67. This engine can produce up to 22 newtons of thrust, and can be built by most mechanically minded people with basic engineering tools, such as a metal lath


  • Turbo alternators
  • Turbogenerator
Microturbines are becoming widespread in distributed power and combined heat and power applications, and are very promising for powering hybrid electric vehicles. They range from hand held units producing less than a kilowatt, to commercial sized systems that produce tens or hundreds of kilowatts. Basic principles of microturbine are based on micro-combustion.
Part of their claimed success is said to be due to advances in electronics, which allows unattended operation and interfacing with the commercial power grid. Electronic power switching technology eliminates the need for the generator to be synchronized with the power grid. This allows the generator to be integrated with the turbine shaft, and to double as the starter motor.

Microturbine systems have many claimed advantages over reciprocating engine generators, such as higher power-to-weight ratio, low emissions and few, or just one, moving part. Advantages are that microturbines may be designed with foil bearings and air-cooling operating without lubricating oil, coolants or other hazardous materials. Nevertheless, reciprocating engines overall are still cheaper when all factors are considered.
Microturbines also have a further advantage of having the majority of the waste heat contained in the relatively high temperature exhaust making it simpler to capture, whereas the waste heat of reciprocating engines is split between its exhaust and cooling system.
However, reciprocating engine generators are quicker to respond to changes in output power requirement and are usually slightly more efficient, although the efficiency of microturbines is increasing. Microturbines also lose more efficiency at low power levels than reciprocating engines.

Reciprocating engines typically use simple motor oil (journal) bearings. Full-size gas turbines often use ball bearings. The 1000 °C temperatures and high speeds of microturbines make oil lubrication and ball bearings impractical; they require air bearings or possibly magnetic bearings.

When used in extended range electric vehicles the static efficiency drawback is irrelevant, since the gas turbine can be run at or near maximum power, driving an alternator to produce electricity either for the wheel motors, or for the batteries, as appropriate to speed and battery state. The batteries act as a "buffer" (energy storage) in delivering the required amount of power to the wheel motors, rendering throttle response of the gas turbine completely irrelevant.

There is, moreover, no need for a significant or variable-speed gearbox; turning an alternator at comparatively high speeds allows for a smaller and lighter alternator than would otherwise be the case. The superior power-to-weight ratio of the gas turbine and its fixed speed gearbox, allows for a much lighter prime mover than those in such hybrids as the Toyota Prius (which utilised a 1.8 litre petrol engine) or the Chevrolet Volt (which utilises a 1.4 litre petrol engine). This in turn allows a heavier weight of batteries to be carried, which allows for a longer electric-only range. Alternatively, the vehicle can use heavier types of batteries such as lead acid batteries (which are cheaper to buy) or safer types of batteries such as Lithium-Iron-Phosphate.

In extended-range electric vehicles, like those planned by Land-Rover/Range-Rover in conjunction with Bladon, or by Jaguar also in partnership with Bladon, the very poor throttling response (their high moment of rotational inertia) does not matter, because the gas turbine, which may be spinning at 100,000 rpm, is not directly, mechanically connected to the wheels. It was this poor throttling response that so bedevilled the 1950 Rover gas turbine-powered prototype motor car, which did not have the advantage of an intermediate electric drive train to provide sudden power spikes when demanded by the driver.
Gas turbines accept most commercial fuels, such as petrol, natural gas, propane, diesel, and kerosene as well as renewable fuels such as E85, biodiesel and biogas. However, when running on kerosene or diesel, starting sometimes requires the assistance of a more volatile product such as propane gas - although the new kero-start technology can allow even microturbines fuelled on kerosene to start without propane.
Microturbine designs usually consist of a single stage radial compressor, a single stage radial turbine and a recuperator. Recuperators are difficult to design and manufacture because they operate under high pressure and temperature differentials. Exhaust heat can be used for water heating, space heating, drying processes or absorption chillers, which create cold for air conditioning from heat energy instead of electric energy.

Typical microturbine efficiencies are 25 to 35%. When in a combined heat and power cogeneration system, efficiencies of greater than 80% are commonly achieved.
MIT started its millimeter size turbine engine project in the middle of the 1990s when Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Alan H. Epstein considered the possibility of creating a personal turbine which will be able to meet all the demands of a modern person's electrical needs, just as a large turbine can meet the electricity demands of a small city.
Problems have occurred with heat dissipation and high-speed bearings in these new microturbines. Moreover, their expected efficiency is a very low 5-6%. According to Professor Epstein, current commercial Li-ion rechargeable batteries deliver about 120-150 W·h/kg. MIT's millimeter size turbine will deliver 500-700 W·h/kg in the near term, rising to 1200-1500 W∙h/kg in the longer term.

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