Basics of Micro Gas Turbines and Steam Turbines

The design of a steam turbine is a very complex endeavor that requires in depth knowledge from many fields of engineering. The development of such a machine is a big investment that is important and crucial for the current economy climate. Micro gas turbines and steam turbines will continue to be present in the industrial manufacturing and aviation sector. The technological innovations currently being developed will continue to improve the efficiency and longevity of steam turbines. For a basic look on micro gas turbines and steam turbines, read on below. 

Micro gas turbines work in connection with steam turbines as steam turbines convert thermal heat or kinetic energy and turn it into mechanical energy. This is accomplished with the use of rotating blades that accelerate steam and high pressure and which then provides impulse and reaction forces to the rotating blades. What happens next is that torque is generated by a steam force and then is transferred to the rotor. Steam turbines can come in different shapes and sizes, including but not limited to a single stage design, multi-stage machine, and many others. A stage consists of a set of stator blades and a set of rotating blades and every stage and blade row is designed to provide the most efficient flow path and aerodynamic behavior possible. The efficiency of steam turbines increases with increasing inlet temperature and inlet pressure; however, limits are imposed due to the thermal and structural limits of blade shapes and materials.

Increasing short blade heights in high-pressure and intermediate-pressure turbines leads to increased capacity and therefore improved efficiency for a steam turbine. Developing longer and highly efficient last-stage blades is one of the most important challenges faced by engineers in steam turbine design. A good design can lead to large improvements in efficiency and performance. Certain steam engines and micro gas turbines allow the designer to perform design and optimization of all blades including long last-stage blades as well as full 3D CFD simulations using AxCFD and structural, modal and harmonic analysis. There is some crucial care that needs to be taken when accounting for factors that affect steam turbine operation. These include but are not limited to deviations in turbine back pressure, excessive moisture that can lead to blade erosion, low load operation leading to last stage windage and exhaust heating, thermal transients resulting in thermal stress and differential expansion, turbine governing to avoid unwanted and dangerous acceleration. 

Other methods to improve thermal efficiency for either a steam turbine or a micro gas turbine are vast and ever growing. A reheat cycle takes exhaust steam from the high-pressure turbine and returns it to the boiler to then expand in the intermediate-pressure turbine. A regenerative cycle extracts steam to the feedwater heater from intermediate stages of the turbine, which is used to heat feedwater to the boiler, resulting in reduced heat loss to the cooling tower from the condenser. Reheat and regenerative cycles can also be combined at the cost of additional system complexity and equipment costs.

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January 23, 2023

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