A steam turbine is a device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam and uses it to do mechanical work on a rotating output shaft. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884.
Because the turbine generates rotary motion, it is particularly suited to be used to drive an electrical generator – about 90% of all electricity generation in the United States (1996) is by use of steam turbines. The steam turbine is a form of heat engine that derives much of its improvement in thermodynamic efficiency through the use of multiple stages in the expansion of the steam, which results in a closer approach to the most efficient reversible process.
The first device that may be classified as a reaction steam turbine was little more than a toy, the classic Aeolipile, described in the 1st century by Greek mathematician Hero of Alexandria in Roman Egypt. In 1551, Taqi al-Din in Ottoman Egypt described a steam turbine with the practical application of rotating a spit. Steam turbines were also described by the Italian Giovanni Branca (1629) and John Wilkins in England (1648). The devices described by Taqi al-Din and Wilkins are today known as steam jacks.
The modern steam turbine was invented in 1884 by Sir Charles Parsons, whose first model was connected to a dynamo that generated 7.5 kW (10 hp) of electricity. The invention of Parson's steam turbine made cheap and plentiful electricity possible and revolutionised marine transport and naval warfare. His patent was licensed and the turbine scaled-up shortly after by an American, George Westinghouse. The Parsons turbine also turned out to be easy to scale up. Parsons had the satisfaction of seeing his invention adopted for all major world power stations, and the size of generators had increased from his first 7.5 kW set up to units of 50,000 kW capacity. Within Parson's lifetime, the generating capacity of a unit was scaled up by about 10,000 times, and the total output from turbo-generators constructed by his firm C. A. Parsons and Company and by their licensees, for land purposes alone, had exceeded thirty million horse-power.
A number of other variations of turbines have been developed that work effectively with steam. The de Laval turbine (invented by Gustaf de Laval) accelerated the steam to full speed before running it against a turbine blade. De Laval's impulse turbine is simpler, less expensive and does not need to be pressure-proof. It can operate with any pressure of steam, but is considerably less efficient.
One of the founders of the modern theory of steam and gas turbines was also Aurel Stodola, a Slovak physicist and engineer and professor at Swiss Polytechnical Institute (now ETH) in Zurich. His mature work was Die Dampfturbinen und ihre Aussichten als Wärmekraftmaschinen (English: The Steam Turbine and its perspective as a Heat Energy Machine) which was published in Berlin in 1903. In 1922, in Berlin, was published another important book Dampf und Gas-Turbinen (English: Steam and Gas Turbines).
The Brown-Curtis turbine which had been originally developed and patented by the U.S. company International Curtis Marine Turbine Company was developed in the 1900s in conjunction with John Brown & Company. It was used in John Brown's merchant ships and warships, including liners and Royal Navy warships.
Steam turbines are made in a variety of sizes ranging from small <0.75 kW (1< hp) units (rare) used as mechanical drives for pumps, compressors and other shaft driven equipment, to 1,500,000 kW (2,000,000 hp) turbines used to generate electricity. There are several classifications for modern steam turbines.
These types include condensing, non-condensing, reheat, extraction and induction.
Condensing turbines are most commonly found in electrical power plants. These turbines exhaust steam in a partially condensed state, typically of a quality near 90%, at a pressure well below atmospheric to a condenser.
Non-condensing or back pressure turbines are most widely used for process steam applications. The exhaust pressure is controlled by a regulating valve to suit the needs of the process steam pressure. These are commonly found at refineries, district heating units, pulp and paper plants, and desalination facilities where large amounts of low pressure process steam are available.
Reheat turbines are also used almost exclusively in electrical power plants. In a reheat turbine, steam flow exits from a high pressure section of the turbine and is returned to the boiler where additional superheat is added. The steam then goes back into an intermediate pressure section of the turbine and continues its expansion. Using reheat in a cycle increases the work output from the turbine and also the expansion reaches conclusion before the steam condenses, there by minimizing the erosion of the blades in last rows. In most of the cases, maximum number of reheats employed in a cycle is 2 as the cost of superheating the steam negates the increased the work output from turbine.
Extracting type turbines are common in all applications. In an extracting type turbine, steam is released from various stages of the turbine, and used for industrial process needs or sent to boiler feed water heaters to improve overall cycle efficiency. Extraction flows may be controlled with a valve, or left uncontrolled.
Induction turbines introduce low pressure steam at an intermediate stage to produce additional power.
These arrangements include single casing, tandem compound and cross compound turbines. Single casing units are the most basic style where a single casing and shaft are coupled to a generator. Tandem compound are used where two or more casings are directly coupled together to drive a single generator. A cross compound turbine arrangement features two or more shafts not in line driving two or more generators that often operate at different speeds. A cross compound turbine is typically used for many large applications.
The moving steam imparts both a tangential and axial thrust on the turbine shaft, but the axial thrust in a simple turbine is unopposed. To maintain the correct rotor position and balancing, this force must be counteracted by an opposing force. Either thrust bearings can be used for the shaft bearings, or the rotor can be designed so that the steam enters in the middle of the shaft and exits at both ends. The blades in each half face opposite ways, so that the axial forces negate each other but the tangential forces act together. This design of rotor is called two-flow or double-exhaust. This arrangement is common in low-pressure casings of a compound turbine.
An ideal steam turbine is considered to be an isentropic process, or constant entropy process, in which the entropy of the steam entering the turbine is equal to the entropy of the steam leaving the turbine. No steam turbine is truly isentropic, however, with typical isentropic efficiencies ranging from 20–90% based on the application of the turbine. The interior of a turbine comprises several sets of blades, or buckets as they are more commonly referred to. One set of stationary blades is connected to the casing and one set of rotating blades is connected to the shaft. The sets intermesh with certain minimum clearances, with the size and configuration of sets varying to efficiently exploit the expansion of steam at each stage.
To maximize turbine efficiency the steam is expanded, doing work, in a number of stages. These stages are characterized by how the energy is extracted from them and are known as either impulse or reaction turbines. Most steam turbines use a mixture of the reaction and impulse designs: each stage behaves as either one or the other, but the overall turbine uses both. Typically, higher pressure sections are reaction type and lower pressure stages are impulse type.
An impulse turbine has fixed nozzles that orient the steam flow into high speed jets. These jets contain significant kinetic energy, which is converted into shaft rotation by the bucket-like shaped rotor blades, as the steam jet changes direction. A pressure drop occurs across only the stationary blades, with a net increase in steam velocity across the stage. As the steam flows through the nozzle its pressure falls from inlet pressure to the exit pressure (atmospheric pressure, or more usually, the condenser vacuum). Due to this high ratio of expansion of steam, the steam leaves the nozzle with a very high velocity. The steam leaving the moving blades has a large portion of the maximum velocity of the steam when leaving the nozzle. The loss of energy due to this higher exit velocity is commonly called the carry over velocity or leaving loss.
The law of moment of momentum states that the sum of the moments of external forces acting on a fluid which is temporarily occupying the control volume is equal to the net time change of angular momentum flux through the control volume.
The swirling fluid enters the control volume at radius with tangential velocity and leaves at radius with tangential velocity .
A velocity triangle paves the way for a better understanding of the relationship between the various velocities. In the adjacent figure we have:
is the guide vane angle and is the blade angle.
Then by the law of moment of momentum, the torque on the fluid is given by:
For an impulse steam turbine: .
Therefore, the tangential force on the blades is .
Work done per unit time or power developed:
When ω is the angular velocity of the turbine, then the blade speed is .
Work done per unit time or power developed = .
Blade efficiency () can be defined as the ratio of the work done on the blades to kinetic energy supplied to the fluid, and is given by
A stage of an impulse turbine consists of a nozzle set and a moving wheel. The stage efficiency defines a relationship between enthalpy drop in the nozzle and work done in the stage.
Where = is the specific enthalpy drop of steam in the nozzle
By the first law of thermodynamics: + = +
Assuming that is appreciably less than
We get ≈
Furthermore, stage efficiency is the product of blade efficiency and nozzle efficiency, or
Nozzle efficiency is given by =
where the enthalpy (in J/Kg) of steam at the entrance of the nozzle is and the enthalpy of steam at the exit of the nozzle is .
The ratio of the cosines of the blade angles at the outlet and inlet can be taken and denoted = .
The ratio of steam velocities relative to the rotor speed at the outlet to the inlet of the blade is defined by the friction coefficient = .
and depicts the loss in the relative velocity due to friction as the steam flows around the blades.
for smooth blades.
The ratio of the blade speed to the absolute steam velocity at the inlet is termed the blade speed ratio =
is maximum when
and herefore = .
Now (for a single stage impulse turbine)
Therefore the maximum value of stage efficiency is obtained by putting the value of = in the expression of
For equiangular blades = , therefore
Putting we get
If the friction due to the blade surface is neglected then
Conclusions on maximum efficiency
1. For a given steam velocity work done per kg of steam would be maximum when or .
2. As increases, the work done on the blades reduces, but at the same time surface area of the blade reduces, therefore there are less frictional losses.
In the reaction turbine, the rotor blades themselves are arranged to form convergent nozzles. This type of turbine makes use of the reaction force produced as the steam accelerates through the nozzles formed by the rotor. Steam is directed onto the rotor by the fixed vanes of the stator. It leaves the stator as a jet that fills the entire circumference of the rotor. The steam then changes direction and increases its speed relative to the speed of the blades. A pressure drop occurs across both the stator and the rotor, with steam accelerating through the stator and decelerating through the rotor, with no net change in steam velocity across the stage but with a decrease in both pressure and temperature, reflecting the work performed in the driving of the rotor.
Energy input to the blades in a stage:
is equal to the kinetic energy supplied to the fixed blades (f) + the kinetic energy supplied to the moving blades (m).
Or, = enthalpy drop over the fixed blades, + enthalpy drop over the moving blades, .
The effect of expansion of steam over the moving blades is to increase the relative velocity at the exit. Therefore the relative velocity at the exit is always greater than the relative velocity at the inlet .
In terms of velocities, the enthalpy drop over the moving blades is given by:
(it contributes to a change in static pressure)
The enthalpy drop in the fixed blades, with the assumption that the velocity of steam entering the fixed blades is equal to the velocity of steam leaving the previously moving blades is given by:
= where V0 is the inlet velocity of steam in the nozzle
is very small and hence can be neglected
A very widely used design has half degree of reaction or 50% reaction and this is known as Parson’s turbine. This consists of symmetrical rotor and stator blades. For this turbine the velocity triangle is similar and we have:
= , =
= , =
Assuming Parson’s turbine and obtaining all the expressions we get
From the inlet velocity triangle we have
Work done (for unit mass flow per second): = =
Therefore the blade efficiency is given by
Condition of maximum blade efficiency
If =, then
For maximum efficiency , we get
and this finally gives
Therefore is found by putting the value of = in the expression of blade efficiency
Because of the high pressures used in the steam circuits and the materials used, steam turbines and their casings have high thermal inertia. When warming up a steam turbine for use, the main steam stop valves (after the boiler) have a bypass line to allow superheated steam to slowly bypass the valve and proceed to heat up the lines in the system along with the steam turbine. Also, a turning gear is engaged when there is no steam to the turbine to slowly rotate the turbine to ensure even heating to prevent uneven expansion. After first rotating the turbine by the turning gear, allowing time for the rotor to assume a straight plane (no bowing), then the turning gear is disengaged and steam is admitted to the turbine, first to the astern blades then to the ahead blades slowly rotating the turbine at 10–15 RPM (0.17–0.25 Hz) to slowly warm the turbine. The warm up procedure for large steam turbines may exceed ten hours.
During normal operation, rotor imbalance can lead to vibration, which, because of the high rotation velocities, could lead to a blade breaking away from the rotor and through the casing. To reduce this risk, considerable efforts are spent to balance the turbine. Also, turbines are run with high quality steam: either superheated (dry) steam, or saturated steam with a high dryness fraction. This prevents the rapid impingement and erosion of the blades which occurs when condensed water is blasted onto the blades (moisture carry over). Also, liquid water entering the blades may damage the thrust bearings for the turbine shaft. To prevent this, along with controls and baffles in the boilers to ensure high quality steam, condensate drains are installed in the steam piping leading to the turbine.
The control of a turbine with a governor is essential, as turbines need to be run up slowly to prevent damage and some applications (such as the generation of alternating current electricity) require precise speed control. Uncontrolled acceleration of the turbine rotor can lead to an overspeed trip, which causes the nozzle valves that control the flow of steam to the turbine to close. If this fails then the turbine may continue accelerating until it breaks apart, often catastrophically. Turbines are expensive to make, requiring precision manufacture and special quality materials.
During normal operation in synchronization with the electricity network, power plants are governed with a five percent droop speed control. This means the full load speed is 100% and the no-load speed is 105%. This is required for the stable operation of the network without hunting and drop-outs of power plants. Normally the changes in speed are minor. Adjustments in power output are made by slowly raising the droop curve by increasing the spring pressure on a centrifugal governor. Generally this is a basic system requirement for all power plants because the older and newer plants have to be compatible in response to the instantaneous changes in frequency without depending on outside communication.
The steam turbine operates on basic principles of thermodynamics using the part of the Rankine cycle. Superheated vapor (or dry saturated vapor, depending on application) enters the turbine, after it having exited the boiler, at high temperature and high pressure. The high heat/pressure steam is converted into kinetic energy using a nozzle (a fixed nozzle in an impulse type turbine or the fixed blades in a reaction type turbine). Once the steam has exited the nozzle it is moving at high velocity and is sent to the blades of the turbine. A force is created on the blades due to the pressure of the vapor on the blades causing them to move. A generator or other such device can be placed on the shaft, and the energy that was in the vapor can now be stored and used. The gas exits the turbine as a saturated vapor (or liquid-vapor mix depending on application) at a lower temperature and pressure than it entered with and is sent to the condenser to be cooled. If we look at the first law we can find an equation comparing the rate at which work is developed per unit mass. Assuming there is no heat transfer to the surrounding environment and that the change in kinetic and potential energy is negligible when compared to the change in specific enthalpy we come up with the following equation
To measure how well a turbine is performing we can look at its isentropic efficiency. This compares the actual performance of the turbine with the performance that would be achieved by an ideal, isentropic, turbine. When calculating this efficiency, heat lost to the surroundings is assumed to be zero. The starting pressure and temperature is the same for both the actual and the ideal turbines, but at turbine exit the energy content ('specific enthalpy') for the actual turbine is greater than that for the ideal turbine because of irreversibility in the actual turbine. The specific enthalpy is evaluated at the same pressure for the actual and ideal turbines in order to give a good comparison between the two.
The isentropic efficiency is found by dividing the actual work by the ideal work.
Electrical power stations use large steam turbines driving electric generators to produce most (about 80%) of the world's electricity. The advent of large steam turbines made central-station electricity generation practical, since reciprocating steam engines of large rating became very bulky, and operated at slow speeds. Most central stations are fossil fuel power plants and nuclear power plants; some installations use geothermal steam, or use concentrated solar power (CSP) to create the steam. Steam turbines can also be used directly to drive large centrifugal pumps, such as feedwater pumps at a thermal power plant.
The turbines used for electric power generation are most often directly coupled to their generators. As the generators must rotate at constant synchronous speeds according to the frequency of the electric power system, the most common speeds are 3,000 RPM for 50 Hz systems, and 3,600 RPM for 60 Hz systems. Since nuclear reactors have lower temperature limits than fossil-fired plants, with lower steam quality, the turbine generator sets may be arranged to operate at half these speeds, but with four-pole generators, to reduce erosion of turbine blades.
In ships, compelling advantages of steam turbines over reciprocating engines are smaller size, lower maintenance, lighter weight, and lower vibration. A steam turbine is only efficient when operating in the thousands of RPM, while the most effective propeller designs are for speeds less than 100 RPM; consequently, precise (thus expensive) reduction gears are usually required, although several ships, such as Turbinia, had direct drive from the steam turbine to the propeller shafts. Another alternative is turbo-electric transmission, in which an electrical generator run by the high-speed turbine is used to run one or more slow-speed electric motors connected to the propeller shafts; precision gear cutting may be a production bottleneck during wartime. The purchase cost is offset by much lower fuel and maintenance requirements and the small size of a turbine when compared to a reciprocating engine having an equivalent power. However, diesel engines are capable of higher efficiencies: propulsion steam turbine cycle efficiencies have yet to break 50%, yet diesel engines routinely exceed 50%, especially in marine applications.
Nuclear-powered ships and submarines use a nuclear reactor to create steam. Nuclear power is often chosen where diesel power would be impractical (as in submarine applications) or the logistics of refuelling pose significant problems (for example, icebreakers). It has been estimated that the reactor fuel for the Royal Navy's Vanguard class submarine is sufficient to last 40 circumnavigations of the globe – potentially sufficient for the vessel's entire service life. Nuclear propulsion has only been applied to a very few commercial vessels due to the expense of maintenance and the regulatory controls required on nuclear fuel cycles.
A steam turbine locomotive engine is a steam locomotive driven by a steam turbine.
The main advantages of a steam turbine locomotive are better rotational balance and reduced hammer blow on the track. However, a disadvantage is less flexible power output power so that turbine locomotives were best suited for long-haul operations at a constant output power.
The first steam turbine rail locomotive was built in 1908 for the Officine Meccaniche Miani Silvestri Grodona Comi, Milan, Italy. In 1924 Krupp built the steam turbine locomotive T18 001, operational in 1929, for Deutsche Reichsbahn.
British, German, other national and international test codes are used to standardize the procedures and definitions used to test steam turbines. Selection of the test code to be used is an agreement between the purchaser and the manufacturer, and has some significance to the design of the turbine and associated systems. In the United States, ASME has produced several performance test codes on steam turbines. These include ASME PTC 6-2004, Steam Turbines, ASME PTC 6.2-2011, Steam Turbines in Combined Cycles, PTC 6S-1988, Procedures for Routine Performance Test of Steam Turbines. These ASME performance test codes have gained international recognition and acceptance for testing steam turbines. The single most important and differentiating characteristic of ASME performance test codes, including PTC 6, is that the test uncertainty of the measurement indicates the quality of the test and is not to be used as a commercial tolerance.
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