Gas Turbine Engines, Gas Turbine History, Gas Turbine Engineering
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Gas Turbine Engines, Gas Turbine History, Gas Turbine Engineering

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Gas Turbine Engine
extracts energy from a flow of hot gas which is produced by combustion of gas, oil fuel or any other fuel producing gas, in a stream of compressed air.

Gas Turbine Engine has an upstream air compressor (radial or axial flow) mechanically coupled to a downstream turbine and a combustion chamber in between. "Gas turbine engine" may also refer to just the turbine element.

This machine has a single-stage centrifugal compressor and turbine, a recuperator, and foil bearings
This machine has a single-stage centrifugal compressor and turbine, a recuperator, and foil bearings.

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Energy is released when compressed air is mixed with fuel and ignited in the combustor. The resulting gases are directed over the turbine's blades, spinning the turbine, and mechanically powering the compressor.

Finally, the gases are passed through a nozzle, generating additional thrust by accelerating the hot exhaust gases by expansion back to atmospheric pressure.

Energy is extracted in the form of shaft power, compressed air and thrust, in any combination, and used to power aircraft, trains, ships, electrical generators, and even tanks.


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Gas Turbine History

Almost all electrical power on Earth is produced with a turbine of some type. Today, very high efficiency gas turbine harness about 40% of the thermal energy, with the rest exhausted as waste heat. But where did the Gas Turbine History started? It may have all started around 60 AD. Following are a few historical facts about gas turbine:

  • 60: Hero's Engine (Aeolipile) - apparently Hero's steam engine was taken to be no more than a toy, and thus its full potential not realized for centuries.

  • 1500: The "Chimney Jack" was drawn by Leonardo da Vinci which was turning a roasting spit. Hot air from a fire rose through a series of fans which connect and turn the roasting spit.

  • 1629: Jets of steam rotated a turbine that then rotated driven machinery allowed a stamping mill to be developed by Giovanni Branca.

  • 1678: Ferdinand Verbeist built a model carriage relying on a steam jet for power.

  • 1791: A patent was given to John Barber, an Englishman, for the first true gas turbine engine. His invention had most of the elements present in the modern day gas turbine. The turbine was designed to power a horseless carriage.

  • 1872: The first true gas turbine engine was designed by Dr F. Stolze, but the engine never ran under its own power.

  • 1894: Sir Charles Parsons patented the idea of propelling a ship with a steam turbine, and built a demonstration vessel (the Turbinia). This principle of propulsion is still of some use.

  • 1895: Three 4-ton 100 kW Parsons radial flow generators were installed in Cambridge Power Station, and used to power the first electric street lighting scheme in the city.

  • 1903: A Norwegian, Ægidius Elling, was able to build the first gas turbine engine that was able to produce more power than needed to run its own components, which was considered an achievement in a time when knowledge about aerodynamics was limited. Using rotary compressors and turbines it produced 11 hp (massive for those days). His work was later used by Sir Frank Whittle.

  • 1914: The first application for a gas turbine engine was filed by Charles Curtis.

  • 1918: One of the leading gas turbine engine manufacturers of today, General Electric, started their gas turbine enginee division.

  • 1920: The then current gas flow through passages was developed by Dr A. A. Griffith to a turbine theory with gas flow past airfoils.

  • 1930. Sir Frank Whittle patented the design for a gas turbine engine for jet propulsion. His work on gas propulsion relied on the work from all those who had previously worked in the same field and he has himself stated that his invention would be hard to achieve without the works of Ægidius Elling. The first successful use of his engine was in April 1937.

  • 1934. Raúl Pateras de Pescara patented the free-piston engine as a gas generator for gas turbine engines.

  • 1936. Hans von Ohain and Max Hahn in Germany developed their own patented Engine design at the same time that Sir Frank Whittle was developing his design in England.

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Gas Turbine Engineering

Gas turbine engines engineering theory is described thermodynamically by the Brayton cycle, in which air is compressed isentropically, combustion occurs at constant pressure, and expansion over the turbine occurs isentropically back to the starting pressure. In practice, friction, and turbulence cause:

  1. Non-isentropic compression: for a given overall pressure ratio, the compressor delivery temperature is higher than ideal.

  2. Non-isentropic expansion: although the turbine temperature drop necessary to drive the compressor is unaffected, the associated pressure ratio is greater, which decreases the expansion available to provide useful work.

  3. Pressure losses in the air intake, combustor and exhaust: reduces the expansion available to provide useful work.
As with all cyclic heat Engines, higher combustion temperature means greater efficiency.

The limiting factor is the ability of the steel, nickel, ceramic, or other materials that make up the engine to withstand heat and pressure.

Brayton cycle
Brayton cycle.

Considerable engineering goes into keeping the turbine parts cool. Most turbines also try to recover exhaust heat, which otherwise is wasted energy. Recuperators are heat exchangers that pass exhaust heat to the compressed air, prior to combustion. Combined cycle designs pass waste heat to steam turbine systems. And combined heat and power (co-generation) uses waste heat for hot water production.

Mechanically, gas turbine engines can be considerably less complex than internal combustion piston engines. Simple turbines might have one moving part: the shaft - compressor - turbine - alternative-rotor assembly (see image above), not counting the fuel system.

More sophisticated turbines (such as those found in modern jet engines) may have multiple shafts (spools), hundreds of turbine blades, movable stator blades, and a vast system of complex piping, combustors and heat exchangers.

As a general rule, the smaller the engine the higher the rotation rate of the shaft(s) needs to be to maintain tip speed. Turbine blade tip speed determines the maximum pressure that can be gained, independent of the size of the engine. Jet engines operate around 10,000 rpm and micro turbines around 100,000 rpm.

Thrust bearings and journal bearings are a critical part of design. Traditionally, they have been hydrodynamic oil bearings, or oil-cooled ball bearings. This is giving way to foil bearings, which have been successfully used in micro turbines and auxiliary power units.


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Business Tips

Some tips on how to avoid business failure:

  • Don't underestimate the capital you need to start up the business.

  • Understand and keep control of your finances - income earned is not the same as cash in hand.

  • More volume does not automatically mean more profit - you need to get your pricing right.

  • Make sure you have good software for your business, software that provides you with a good reporting picture of all aspects of your business operations.


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