Thermal efficiency of gas turbines is critically dependent on temperature of burnt gases at turbine inlet, the higher this temperature the higher the efficiency. Stochiometric combustion would provide maximum efficiency, but in the absence of an internal cooling system, turbine blades cannot tolerate gas temperatures exceeding 1300 K. This temperature yields a low thermal efficiency, about 15% below the level provide by stoicthiometric combustion. Conventional engines rely on air for blade and disk cooling and limit temperature at turbine inlet to about 1500 K. These engines gain about 3% compared to non-cooled designs. Gas turbines with state of the art air-cooling systems reach up to 1700–1750 K, boosting thermal efficiency by another 2–3%. These temperatures are near the limit allowed by air-cooling systems. Cooling systems with air are easier to design, but air has a low heat transfer capacity, and compressor air bleeding lowers the overall efficiency of engines (less air remains available for combustion). In addition, these systems waste most of the heat extracted from turbine for cooling. In principle, gas turbines could be cooled with liquid. Half a century ago, designers tried to place the pump for coolant recirculation on the engine stator. Liquid was allowed to boil inside the turbine. Seals for parts in relative motion cannot prevent loss of superheated vapors, therefore these experiments failed. To circumvent this problem, another design relied on thermal gradients to promote recirculation from blade tip to root. Liquid flow and cooling capacity were minute. Therefore it was assumed that liquid couldn’t be used for gas turbine cooling. This is an unwarranted assumption. The relative motion between engine stator and rotor provides abundant power for pumps placed on the rotor. The heat exchanger needed for cooling the liquid with ambient air could also be embedded in the rotor. In fact, the entire cooling system can be encapsulated within the rotor. In this manner, the sealing problem is circumvented. Compared to state of the art air-cooling methods, such a cooling system would increase thermal efficiency of any gas turbine by 6%–8%, because stoichimoetric fuel-air mixtures would be used (maybe even with hydrogen fuel). In addition, these systems would recuperate most of the heat extracted from turbine for cooling, are expected to be highly reliable and to increase specific power of gas turbines by 400% to 500%.

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