Thursday, November 20, 2008


A turbine is a rotary engine that extracts energy from a fluid flow. Claude Burdin (1788-1873) coined the term from the Latin turbo, which means vortex, during an 1828 engineering competition. Benoit Fourneyron (1802-1867), a student of Claude Burdin, built the first practical water turbine. The simplest turbines have one moving part, a rotor assembly, which is a shaft with blades attached. Moving fluid acts on the blades, or the blades react to the flow, so that they rotate and impart energy to the rotor. Early turbine examples are windmills and water wheels.

Turbines develop torque by reacting to the fluid's pressure or weight. The pressure of the fluid changes as it passes through the turbine rotor blades. A pressure casement is needed to contain the working fluid as it acts on the turbine stage(s) or the turbine must be fully immersed in the fluid flow (wind turbines). The casing contains and directs the working fluid and, for water turbines, maintains the suction imparted by the draft tube.

Turbine engines produce thrust by increasing the velocity of the air flowing through the engine. A turbine engine consists of an air inlet, compressor, combustion chambers, turbine section, and exhaust. The turbine engine has the following advantages over a reciprocating engine: less vibration, increased aircraft performance, reliability, and ease of operation. Turbine engines are classified according to the type of compressors they use. The compressor types fall into three categories—centrifugal flow, axial flow, and centrifugal-axial flow. Compression of inlet air is achieved in a centrifugal flow engine by accelerating air outward perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the machine. The axial-flow engine compresses air by a series of rotating and stationary airfoils moving the air parallel to the longitudinal axis. The centrifugalaxial flow design uses both kinds of compressors to achieve the desired compression. The path the air takes through the engine and how power is produced determines the type of engine. There are four types of aircraft turbine engines—turbojet, turboprop, turbofan, and turboshaft.

Gas, steam, and water turbines have a casing around the blades that contains and controls the working fluid. Credit for invention of the modern steam turbine is given to British Engineer Sir Charles Parsons (1854 - 1931). A device similar to a turbine but operating in reverse is a compressor or pump. The axial compressor in many gas turbine engines is a common example.

Francis turbines and most steam turbines use this concept. For compressible working fluids, multiple turbine stages may be used to harness the expanding gas efficiently. Newton's third law describes the transfer of energy for reaction turbines. The primary numerical classification of a turbine is its specific speed. This number describes the speed of the turbine at its maximum efficiency with respect to the power and flow rate. The specific speed is derived to be independent of turbine size. Given the fluid flow conditions and the desired shaft output speed, the specific speed can be calculated and an appropriate turbine design selected.

How a Turbine Works