1. The gas turbine engine is essentially a heat engine using air as a working fluid to provide thrust. To achieve this, the air passing through the engine has to be accelerated; this means that the velocity or kinetic energy of the air is increased. To obtain this increase, the pressure energy is first of all increased, followed by the addition of heat energy, before final conversion back to kinetic Energy in the form of a high velocity jet efflux.
|Fig. 2-1 A comparison between the working cycle of a turbo-jet engine and a piston engine.|
These processes are intermittent in the case of the piston engine whilst they occur continuously in the gas turbine. In the piston engine only one stroke is utilized in the production of power, the others being involved in the charging, compressing and exhausting of the working fluid. In contrast, the turbine engine eliminates the three ’idle’ strokes, thus enabling more fuel to be burnt in a shorter time;hence it produces a greater power output for a given size of engine.
3. Due to the continuous action of the turbine engine and the fact that the combustion chamber is not an enclosed space, the pressure of the air does not rise, like that of the piston engine, during combustion but its volume does increase. This process is known as heating at constant pressure. Under these conditions there are no peak or fluctuating pressures to be withstood, as is the case with the piston engine with its peak pressures in excess of 1,000 lb. per sq. in. It is these peak pressures which make it necessary for the piston engine to employ cylinders of heavy construction and to use high octane fuels, in contrast to the low octane
fuels and the light fabricated combustion chambers
used on the turbine engine.
4. The working cycle upon which the gas turbine engine functions is, in its simplest form, represented by the cycle shown on the pressure volume diagram in fig. 2-2. Point A represents air at atmospheric pressure that is compressed along the line AB. From B to C heat is added to the air by introducing and burning fuel at constant pressure, thereby considerably increasing the volume of air. Pressure losses in the combustion chambers (Part 4) are indicated by the drop between B and C. From C to D the gases resulting from combustion expand through the turbine and jet pipe back to atmosphere. During this part of the cycle, some of the energy in the expanding gases is turned into mechanical power by atmosphere, provides a propulsive jet.
5. Because the turbo-jet engine is a heat engine, the higher the temperature of combustion the greater is the expansion of the gases. The combustion temperature, however, must not exceed a value that gives a turbine gas entry temperature suitable for the design and materials of the turbine assembly.
6. The use of air-cooled blades in the turbine assembly permits a higher gas temperature and a consequently higher thermal efficiency.