Gas turbines serve as one of the most widely used engine types for a number of different applications. Today, they find use in power generation technologies, among other uses. However, they are mainly utilized to produce cheap electricity by using gas as their working fluid.
In fact, the demand for these engines lies primarily in the fact that they take advantage of natural gas. Similar to steam power plants wherein the operating fluid is a water and steam mixture, in gas turbines, an air mixture is used as a derivative fluid. A major problem, however, is that when the fuel is being ejected, its temperature is around 400-500 degrees Celsius, which can cause atmospheric pollution and a lot of energy waste.
Due to this waste, the efficiency of such engine types is around 20-25%, which is way below its potential. With the compressor and turbine on the same shaft, the compressor drives and compresses the air 15-30 times, and then the fuel is mixed and delivered through the turbine at high pressure, transforming the kinetic energy of the gas into rotational energy. The energy required to drive the compressor is delivered from the same shaft through the turbine, meaning that the majority of this energy is used by the compressor to operate and the rest is used in the turbine.
Gas Turbine Parts
To better understand the complexity of gas turbine engines, we will outline all the major parts and components of these power plants.
The turbine consists of a complex set of fixed and rotating blades. As the hot fluid gas expands through the turbine, the rotating blades turn. The rotating blades serve two purposes, the first being to enable the compressor to draw in more compressed air into the combustion chamber, and the second being to rotate the generator to produce electrical energy.
The compressor sucks in air into the turbine, pressurizes it, and increases the pressure of this air as per turbine requirements. Then, it sends the air into the combustion chamber at a rate of a hundred miles per hour.
The rotating shaft enables the compressor to continuously draw air in and pressurize it to maintain consistent combustion. It is equipped with multiple turbine blades, and it rotates in conjunction with these blades. Meanwhile, the excess power sourcing from the shaft is utilized to run the generator for additional electrical power.
Consisting of a series of injectors that insert a steady fuel stream into the combustion system, the fuel is mixed with air within the combustion chamber. Keep in mind that this fuel-air mixture burns at a temperature above 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The gearbox provides torque to the driven equipment.
This part enables low emissions from the turbine section to exit the assembly.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Gas turbines maintain their popularity not only because they are easy to transport and quick to start, but they are also widely available, reliable, and cost-effective. Furthermore, they can use clean, renewable fuels and emit low amounts of toxic gasses.
In terms of disadvantages, they necessitate frequent maintenance, which can make a dent in many user’s pockets. Additionally, they have a lower power-to-weight ratio.
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