Because of intense development in the aircraft gas turbine field over the last 30 years, the fixed boundary recuperator has received much less development attention than the turbomachinery, and is still proving to be the nemesis of the small gas turbine design engineer. For operation on cheap fuel, such as natural gas, the simple cycle-engine is the obvious choice, but where more expensive liquid fuels are to be burned, the economics of gas turbine operation can be substantially improved by incorporating an efficient, reliable recuperator. For many industrial, vehicular, marine, and utility applications it can be shown that the gas turbine is a more attractive prime mover than either the diesel engine or steam turbine. For some military applications the fuel logistics situation shows the recuperative gas turbine to be the most effective power plant. For small nuclear Brayton cycle space power systems the recuperator is an essential component for high overall plant efficiency, and hence reduced thermal rejection to the environment. Data are presented to show that utilization of compact efficient heat transfer surfaces developed primarily for aerospace heat exchangers, can result in a substantial reduction in weight and volume, for industrial, vehicular, marine, and nuclear gas turbine recuperators. With the increase in overall efficiency of the recuperative cycle (depending on the level of thermal effectiveness, and the size and type of plant), the cost of the heat exchanger can often be paid for in fuel savings, after only a few hundred hours of operation. Heat exchanger surface geometries and fabrication techniques, together with specific recuperator sizes for different applications, are presented. Design, performance, structural, manufacturing, and economic aspects of compact heat exchanger technology, as applied to the gas turbine, are discussed in detail, together with projected future trends in this field.

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