Increasing the thermal efficiency of fossil fuel fired power plants in general and the gas turbine power plant in particular is of extreme importance. In the face of diminishing natural resources and increasing carbon emissions that lead to a heightened greenhouse effect and greater concerns over global warming, thermal efficiency is more critical today than ever before. In the science of thermodynamics, the best yardstick for a power generation system’s performance is the Carnot efficiency — the ultimate efficiency limit, set by the second law, which can be achieved only by a perfect heat engine operating in a cycle. As a fact of nature this upper theoretical limit is out of reach, thus engineers usually set their eyes on more realistic goals. For the longest time, the key performance benchmark of a combined cycle (CC) power plant has been the 60% net electric efficiency. Land-based gas turbines based on the classic Brayton cycle with constant pressure heat addition represent the pinnacle of fossil fuel burning power generation engineering. Advances in the last few decades, mainly driven by the increase in cycle maximum temperatures, which in turn are made possible by technology breakthroughs in hot gas path materials, coating and cooling technologies, pushed the power plant efficiencies to nearly 40% in simple cycle and nearly 60% in combined cycle configurations. To surpass the limitations imposed by available materials and other design considerations and to facilitate a significant improvement in the thermal efficiency of advanced Brayton cycle gas turbine power plants necessitate a rethinking of the basic thermodynamic cycle. The current paper highlights the key thermodynamic considerations that make the constant volume heat addition a viable candidate in this respect. First using fundamental air-standard cycle formulas and then more realistic but simple models, potential efficiency improvement in simple and combined cycle configurations is investigated. Existing and past research activities are summarized to illustrate the technologies that can transform the basic thermodynamics into a reality via mechanically and economically feasible products.

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