Gas turbines are a versatile type of internal combustion engine which are used to convert fuels into mechanical energy. The energy created by gas turbines is then used to power various devices, including electrical generators, gas compressors, and vehicles such as aircraft and trains. Compared to other methods of energy production, gas turbines are highly efficient and reliable, making them a popular choice in several fields.
In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know about gas turbines, including their design, functionality, and various applications.
Gas turbines may vary in complexity between different designs, but all share the same goal of facilitating the combustion of liquid or gas fuel. In order to accomplish this with the most efficiency, the gas turbine must deliver environmental air and fuel to the combustion chamber at the proper speed, pressure, and volume. Air first enters the engine through the air intake section before heading to the compressor. The compressor is a large element that compresses air by exposing it to axial or centrifugal motion. As air passes through the compressor, its temperature and pressure are both increased, allowing it to more readily combust in the next chamber.
During an intermediate step, fuel is added to the compressed air to create an ideal ratio as it enters the combustion chamber. This area of the engine is explicitly designed to withstand the tremendous amount of heat and pressure produced by combustion. Additionally, the combustion chamber should effectively contain the flame in order to avoid damage to other engine components which are not designed to be exposed to extreme heat. Another consideration specific to aircraft is the ability of the combustor to reheat the fuel-air mixture at high altitudes in the event of a flame-out.
While the previously mentioned components may be found in a variety of internal combustion engines, the turbine section is unique to this class. After exiting the combustion chamber, the created exhaust is high in energy and pressure. In order to harness some of this energy, turbine blades are placed in the location where the air mass will expand the most. As the turbine blades spin, mechanical energy is created. This energy is then used to drive the compressor while also supplying the needs of the specific application. As a product of fuel combustion, gas turbines create several emissions, including NO2, CO, UHC, and SO2. Consequently, every engine is also equipped with a powerful exhaust system that effectively dispenses the heat and particulates.
When powering a generator, the turbines are directly connected to a generator rod that rotates a magnet. This magnet is surrounded by coils of copper wires which act as a conduit for electrons as they line up due to the effect of the magnetic field. In aviation, gas turbines create the high-pressure exhaust used to generate thrust. Since the needs of various aircraft are diverse, there is generally much more design variance in aviation when compared to other industries that rely upon gas turbines.
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