You are on page 1of 4

A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a rotary engine that extracts energy from a

flow of combustion gas. It has an upstream compressor coupled to a downstream turbine, and a
combustion chamber in-between. (Gas turbine may also refer to just the turbine element.)
Energy is added to the gas stream in the combustor, where air is mixed with fuel and ignited.
Combustion increases the temperature, velocity and volume of the gas flow. This is directed
through a nozzle over the turbine's blades, spinning the turbine and powering the compressor.
Energy is extracted in the form of shaft power, compressed air and thrust, in any combination,
and used to power aircraft, trains, ships, generators, and even tanks.

Theory of operation
Gas turbines are 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.
Brayton cycle
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. 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 turbines can be considerably less complex than internal combustion piston
engines. Simple turbines might have one moving part: the shaft/compressor/turbine/alternativerotor assembly (see image above), not counting the fuel system. However, the required precision
manufacturing for components and temperature resistant alloys necessary for high efficiency
often make the construction of a simple turbine more complicated than piston engines.
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 top speed. Turbine blade top speed determines the maximum pressure that can be
gained,this produces the maximum power possible 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. These bearings are being surpassed by
foil bearings, which have been successfully used in micro turbines and auxiliary power units.

Types of gas turbines

Aeroderivatives and jet engines

Diagram of a gas turbine jet engine

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 primarily from the
direct impulse of exhaust gases are often called turbojets, whereas those that generate most of
their thrust from the action of a ducted fan are often called turbofans or (rarely) fan-jets.
Gas turbines are also used in many liquid propellant rockets, the gas turbines are used to power a
turbopump to permit the use of lightweight, low pressure tanks, which saves considerable dry
Aeroderivatives are also used in electrical power generation due to their ability to startup, shut
down, and handle load changes more quickly than industrial machines. They are also used in the
marine industry to reduce weight. The GE LM2500 and LM6000 are two 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.[2][3] 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.[4]
More sophisticated turbojets are also built, where their thrust and light weight are sufficient to
power large model aircraft.[5] The Schreckling design[5] constructs the entire engine from raw
materials, including the fabrication of a centrifugal compressor wheel from plywood, epoxy and
wrapped carbon fibre strands.
Like many technology based hobbies, they tend to give rise to manufacturing businesses over
time. 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.[6]

Industrial gas turbines for electrical generation

Industrial gas turbines differ from aeroderivative in that the frames, bearings, and blading is of
heavier construction. Industrial gas turbines range in size from truck-mounted mobile plants to
enormous, complex systems.[clarification needed] They can be particularly efficientup to 60%
when waste heat from the gas turbine is recovered by a heat recovery steam generator to power a
conventional steam turbine in a combined cycle configuration.[7] 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 or refrigeration. Such engines require a dedicated enclosure, both
to protect the engine from the elements and the operators from the noise.[citation needed]
The construction process for gas turbines can take as little as several weeks to a few months,
compared to years for base load power plants.[citation needed] Their other main advantage is the
ability to be turned on and off within minutes, supplying power during peak demand. Because
they 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, a gas turbine power plant may regularly operate
during most hours of the day and even into the evening. A typical large single-cycle gas turbine
may produce 100 to 300 megawatts of power and have 3540% thermal efficiency.[citation needed]
The most efficient single-cycle turbines have reached 40% efficiency. "Combined-cycle power
plants, in which exhaust heat from a gas turbine driving an electrical generator is used to make
steam to power a separate [steam] turbine driving yet another electrical generator, can see
efficiencies as high as 58 percent."[8]

Radial gas turbines

In 1963, Jan Mowill initiated the development at Kongsberg Vpenfabrikk 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

Also known as miniature gas turbines or micro-jets.
With this in mind the pioneer of modern Micro-Jets, Kurt Schreckling, produced one of the
world's first Micro-Turbines, the FD3/67.[9] 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 lathe.[citation needed]

Gas turbines in vehicles

Gas turbines are often used on ships, locomotives, helicopters, tanks, and to a lesser extent, on
cars, buses, and motorcycles.
A key advantage of jets and turboprops for aeroplane propulsion - their superior performance at
high altitude compared to piston engines, particularly naturally-aspirated ones - is irrelevant in
automobile applications. Their power-to-weight advantage is far more important.
Gas turbines offer a high-powered engine in a very small and light package. However, they are
not as responsive and efficient as small piston engines over the wide range of RPMs and powers
needed in vehicle applications. In series hybrid vehicles, as the driving electric motors are
mechanically detached from the electricity generating engine, the responsiveness problem is
eliminated when using a gas turbine to turn the generator as it is run at the optimum speed. The
emergence of the continuously variable transmission may also alleviate the responsiveness
Turbines have historically been more expensive to produce than piston engines, though this is
partly because piston engines have been mass-produced in huge quantities for decades, while
small gas turbine engines are rarities; however, turbines are mass produced in the closely-related
form of the turbocharger.
Advantages and disadvantages of gas turbine engines

Very high power-to-weight ratio, compared to reciprocating engines;

Smaller than most reciprocating engines of the same power rating.
Moves in one direction only, with far less vibration than a reciprocating engine.
Fewer moving parts than reciprocating engines.
Low operating pressures.
High operation speeds.
Low lubricating oil cost and consumption.

Disadvantages of gas turbine engines

Less efficient than reciprocating engines at idle.