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Hydraulic turbines extract energy from the gravitational potential of water sources
or from the kinetic energy of flowing water or from a combination of the two.
These turbines are generally classified as either impulse or reaction. Reaction
turbines are further classified as radial and mixed-flow (Francis) turbines or as
axial-flow or propeller turbines.

Efficiency generally governs which turbine type is selected. Figure 16.141 plots
efficiency against specific speed (Ns) for the three turbine types.

ne gpm
Ns = 3

Where h is in feet and ne is that rpm corresponding to optimum operating


Finnemore, E.J. and Franzini, J.B., Fluid Mechanics with Engineering Applications, 10 ed., p. 707,
McGraw Hill, 2002.

IMPULSE TURBINES (See Figure 16.1 and 16.3, Finnemore)2

Impulse turbines operate under relatively high heads and low flow rates. One or
more nozzles convert available energy into kinetic energy, most of which is
transferred to buckets attached to a rotating wheel (runner). The resulting shaft
torque drives a generator or other machinery. Windage, fluid friction, turbulence,
separation and leakage cause the principal losses.

• Nozzle Design

V0 Vi1

Figure 1

Id., p. 686.

The ideal exit velocity, Vi1, is calculated from the Bernoulli equation:

P0 V02 P1 Vi12
+ + z0 = + + z1
γ 2g λ 2g

The ideal velocity is multiplied by a velocity coefficient, Cv , to account for

friction and turbulence. Cv varies from about 0.95 (needle valve partly closed) to
0.99 (needle valve fully opened).3
V1 = CvVi1
The actual quantity rate is obtained by multiplying the ideal rate by a discharge
coefficient, Cd. The discharge coefficient is the product of the velocity coefficient
and the contraction coefficient, Cc, (ratio of area of emerging jet to the area of the
nozzle at the discharge point). The value of Cc is about 0.94.4

Conservation of mass leads to:

Q = Cd AV
1 1

Where : Cd = Cc Cv

• Nozzle Dimensions

The nozzle diameter at discharge is made about 20% greater than the calculated
diameter of the jet. The nozzle should terminate in a cone of 30-45°.5

• Rotational Velocity

Calculate rpm from the specific speed that results in reasonable efficiency.
Guidelines follow:

Head (ft) Specific Speed (ns)

1000 5.0 – 5.5
2000 4.0 – 5.0

n W&shaft
ns =
H 5/ 4

Where: n = rpm; W&shaft = shaft horsepower; H = turbine head, ft. If the turbine
drives a generator select a rotational velocity equal to the nearest synchronous
speed calculated from:

Id., p. 695.
Id., Figure 11.13, p. 506.
Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers, 8 ed,, p. 9-145, McGraw-Hill, 1978.

120 f

Where: f = frequency (60 cycles per second in U.S.)

p = number of poles

• Runner Diameter (Dp). The runner diameter is determined from a formula

similar to that for the centrifugal pump.6

1840φ H
• Dp =

Enter Figure 137 with ns to obtain an estimate of φ , a factor based upon


• Absolute Bucket Entering Velocity

V1,ideal = 2U

Where: U = peripheral velocity of a point on the pitch diameter of the bucket.

Because V2 must be greater than zero, however, U is decreased somewhat.

Let β 2 be the angle through which the water is turned relative to the bucket. For
maximum work, β 2 = 180 ; however, to prevent water from striking the

succeeding bucket, it must be somewhat less, say, 150-1600.

See class notes, “Centrifugal Pump Design,” equation (13), p. 5.
Marks’ p. 9-144.

• Bucket Shape and Dimensions8

The bucket shape on either side of the vertical centerline is semi-ellipsoidal. A

sharp-edged “splitter” divides the flow, one-half going to either side.

Approximations for bucket dimensions follow:

Width - B = 3d
Depth - D = 0.85d
Length -L = 2.6d

Where: d = jet diameter at rated capacity.

• Power Analysis (See Figure 16.4, Finnemore)9

Vθ 1 = V1 = U + W1 Vθ 2 = U + W2 cos β ∆Vθ = Vθ 2 − Vθ 1

W&= mU
& ∆Vθ
Where: Vθ = tangential velocity
U = peripheral velocity
m&= mass flow rate
W&= power

Id., Figure 14, p. 9-145.
Finnemore, p. 688.

(See Figures 16.8 and 16.11, Finnemore)

The Francis turbine consists of a runner with shrouded buckets, somewhat

analogous to a centrifugal pump. Wicket gates that direct the flow and control the
power and speed surround the runner. The water enters the turbine through a
spiral scroll casing with a changing area to keep the entering velocity constant.
The usual range for available head is 75-1600 feet; for specific speed, 15-100.

• Design

The turbine buckets are tangent to the entering relative velocity at the tip. They
are designed to leave without appreciable tangential velocity (whirl). Thus, the
exit term in Euler’s equation can be neglected, and the angle between the exiting
absolute velocity and the tangent, α 2 , can be set at 90°. Refer to Figure 2 for the
velocity triangles. The power equation becomes:

• W&= mUV
& θ1

W1 W2
Vr1 V2=Vr2


Figure 2

• Selection of Speed

Economics calls for high rotational speeds resulting in small units.

Considerations of efficiency, cavitation and structural strength, however, place an
upper practical limit on speed.

Figure 16.14 (see page 1) plots efficiency against specific speed (Ns) for the three
principal turbine types. Figure 16.16 (following page) plots specific speed against
maximum effective head (h). To select a practical speed, enter Figure 16.16 with
maximum effective head and draft head and select the highest specific speed
outside of the cavitation region. Then calculate the resulting rpm. Enter Figure
16.14 to estimate efficiency. Select the nearest synchronous speed corresponding
to the value calculated from specific speed.

• Selection of Runner Diameter

The runner diameter is determined from a formula similar to that for the
centrifugal pump.10
1840φe h

Where D is in inches and the peripheral-velocity factor, φe , is found from

Figure 16.14.

The number of buckets can be estimated from:11

n1/s 3

The usual range is 21 for low and 12 for high specific speed. Refer to Marks’ for
other runner dimensions.

• Draft Tubes
See class notes, “Centrifugal Pump Design,” equation (13), p. 5.
Marks’ , p. 9-141.

After passing through the turbine, the water enters a draft tube, Figure 16.11,
(page 6). The purpose of this tube, which is an integral part of the turbine design,
is threefold:

1) To permit the turbine to be set above the tailwater level without loss of
2) To recover a reasonable amount of the kinetic energy leaving the runner by
diffuser action.
3) To facilitate inspection and maintenance.

Note that the pressure at the upper end of the draft tube is below atmospheric thus
limiting the height above the tailwater because of cavitation considerations. The
velocity at the upstream end of the tube ranges from 24 to 30 ft/s; at the lower
end, 5-7 ft/s. The included angle of the diffuser tube should be kept reasonably
small, say 8-12°, to limit losses due to separation. Typical loss coefficients are:12

Cone Angle Loss Coefficient

8° 0.23
12° 0.33

( V −V )

hL =K 1 2

Where: K = Loss Coefficient and numerals 1 and 2 refer to entering and leaving stations.

Finnemore, Figure 8.20, p. 310.