Turbines & Power Systems

Turbines are used to capture the kinetic energy of a working fluid such as water or steam and convert that energy into rotational motion that can be used to drive other types of equipment. Some more common applications include commercial power generation, rocket engine turbopumps, and torpedo propulsion. Barber-Nichols (BN) has over 50 years of experience designing and manufacturing a wide range of single and multistage-stage turbines which include:

– Inlet temperatures from cryogenic to 1,370 °C (2,500 °F)

– Power levels from Watts to megawatts

– Rotational speeds exceeding 400,000 rpm

BN possesses the necessary tools to design the turbine that is most appropriate for your system, as well as the manufacturing capabilities required to take each design from concept to reality. These skills have produced hundreds of clean sheet turbine designs with most resulting in tested hardware.

Axial Flow Impulse Turbines

Axial Flow Impulse Turbines achieve the full pressure ratio across the nozzle and capture the kinetic energy via the turbine blades.  Impulse turbines are ideally suited for applications where you need to keep the speed of the machine and the tangential velocity of the rotor low. In other words, they are often used in a lower specific speed range. For power generation systems, it is advantageous to operate at 3,600 rpm in order to drive a synchronous generator. In aerospace or other high-power-density systems, the driving fluid is typically very energetic resulting in a high enthalpy drop across the turbine.  For such applications, the impulse turbine can operate efficiently at a lower tangential velocity than reaction turbines. For lower flow applications, the impulse turbine can effectively operate with a partial admission nozzle outperforming a comparable reaction turbine.

Axial Flow Reaction Turbines

Axial Flow Reaction Turbines achieve part of the pressure ratio across the nozzle with the balance taken across the turbine blades.  Reaction turbines are typically used for expanding hydrocarbon gases or fluorinated refrigerants where the high molecular weight results in a low enthalpy drop across the turbine, allowing a single stage. When air or steam is used, the head drop across a single turbine is usually too high, favoring multiple stages.

Radial Inflow Turbines

Radial Inflow Turbines also split the pressure ratio between the nozzle and the wheel. Inflow turbines can generate very high efficiencies when applied in the proper operating conditions, though typically requiring higher shaft speeds than axials. The most common application for the Radial Inflow Turbine is the exhaust-driven turbocharger used on internal combustion engines. Millions of these units are used in automobiles, trucks, aircraft, and industrial engines. Other applications include smaller gas turbines, organic Rankine cycle turbine generators, and air and natural gas separation plant turbo-expanders.

Turbine-Alternators & Generators

BN defines a turbine-generator as a machine that produces alternating electrical power directly at grid conditions, either an asynchronous or induction type. Turbine generators traditionally operate at low speeds, near 3600rpm, and utilize a gearbox to reduce the turbine speed into the generator. Turbine-alternators, on the other hand, produce AC power using a compact high-speed permanent magnet design to reduce size and weight while improving operating efficiency.

Specialty Power Systems

As a natural extension of our turbomachinery offerings, Barber-Nichols (BN) also specializes in the modeling, design, and production of specialty heat engines.  Core technologies include:

Organic Rankine Cycles

Thermodynamic Cycle Consulting

Heavy Duty Truck Organic Rankine Cycles

Specialty means we offer a range of engineering services to assist developers in creating heat engine products, up to and including the fabrication of fully operating technology demonstrators “science projects.” However, BN does not offer commercial or turn-key heat engine products.

Selection of the best heat engine technology is driven by a variety of factors, most notably the heat source and cold sink temperatures followed by system thermal efficiency and system cost goals. As Barber-Nichols has experience with these factors and we can work with you to options and provide technology demonstrators up to 10 MW for organic Rankine cycle applications and up to 50 MW for supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle applications. Typical services include:

  • System Conceptual Design And Performance Predictions
  • System Preliminary Design Packages
  • Design And Fabrication Of Technology Demonstrator Systems

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