Gas Turbine Technology
Gas turbine technology has steadily advanced since its inception and continues to evolve. Development is actively producing both smaller gas turbines and more powerful and efficient engines. Aiding in these advances are computer-based design (specifically CFD and finite element analysis) and the development of advanced materials: Base materials with superior high-temperature strength (e.g., single-crystal superalloys that exhibit yield strength anomaly) or thermal barrier coatings that protect the structural material from ever-higher temperatures. These advances allow higher compression ratios and turbine inlet temperatures, more efficient combustion and better cooling of engine parts.
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has contributed to substantial improvements in the performance and efficiency of Gas Turbine engine components through enhanced understanding of the complex viscous flow and heat transfer phenomena involved. For this reason, CFD is one of the key computational tool used in Design & development of gas turbine engines.
The simple-cycle efficiencies of early gas turbines were practically doubled by incorporating inter-cooling, regeneration (or recuperation), and reheating. These improvements, of course, come at the expense of increased initial and operation costs, and they cannot be justified unless the decrease in fuel costs offsets the increase in other costs. The relatively low fuel prices, the general desire in the industry to minimize installation costs, and the tremendous increase in the simple-cycle efficiency to about 40 percent left little desire for opting for these modifications.
On the emissions side, the challenge is to increase turbine inlet temperatures while at the same time reducing peak flame temperature in order to achieve lower NOx emissions and meet the latest emission regulations. In May 2011, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries achieved a turbine inlet temperature of 1,600 °C on a 320-megawatt gas turbine, and 460 MW in gas turbine combined-cycle power generation applications in which gross thermal efficiency exceeds 60%.
Compliant foil bearings were commercially introduced to gas turbines in the 1990s. These can withstand a hundred thousand starts/stop cycles and have eliminated the need for an oil system. The application of microelectronics and power switching technology have enabled the development of commercially viable electricity generation by microturbines for distribution and vehicle propulsion.
Industrial gas turbines for power generation
They range in size from portable mobile plants to large, complex systems weighing more than a hundred tonnes housed in purpose-built buildings. When the gas turbine is used solely for shaft power, its thermal efficiency is about 30%. However, it may be cheaper to buy electricity than to generate it. Therefore, many engines are used in CHP (Combined Heat and Power) configurations that can be small enough to be integrated into portable container configurations.Industrial gas turbines differ from aeronautical designs in that the frames, bearings, and blading are of heavier construction. They are also much more closely integrated with the devices they power— often an electric generator—and the secondary-energy equipment that is used to recover residual energy (largely heat).
Aeroderivative gas turbines
Aeroderivatives are also used in electrical power generation due to their ability to be shut down and handle load changes more quickly than industrial machines.