A turbine (from the Latin turbo, a vortex, related to the Greek τύρβη, tyrbē, meaning “turbulence“)is a rotary mechanical device that extracts energy from a fluid flow and converts it into useful work. The work produced by a turbine can be used for generating electrical power when combined with a generator or producing thrust, as in the case of jet engines.A turbine is a turbomachine with at least one moving part called a rotor assembly, which is a shaft or drum with blades attached. Moving fluid acts on the blades so that they move and impart rotational energy to the rotor. Early turbine examples are windmills and waterwheels.
Gas, steam, and water turbines have a casing around the blades that contains and controls the working fluid. Credit for invention of the steam turbine is given both to British engineer Sir Charles Parsons (1854–1931) for invention of the reaction turbine, and to Swedish engineer Gustaf de Laval (1845–1913) for invention of the impulse turbine. Modern steam turbines frequently employ both reaction and impulse in the same unit, typically varying the degree of reaction and impulse from the blade root to its periphery.
- Steam turbines are used for the generation of electricity in thermal power plants, such as plants using coal, fuel oil or nuclear fuel. They were once used to directly drive mechanical devices such as ships’ propellers (for example the Turbinia, the first turbine-powered steam launch,) but most such applications now use reduction gears or an intermediate electrical step, where the turbine is used to generate electricity, which then powers an electric motor connected to the mechanical load. Turbo electric ship machinery was particularly popular in the period immediately before and during World War II, primarily due to a lack of sufficient gear-cutting facilities in US and UK shipyards.
- Gas turbines are sometimes referred to as turbine engines. Such engines usually feature an inlet, fan, compressor, combustor and nozzle (possibly other assemblies) in addition to one or more turbines.
- Transonic turbine. The gas flow in most turbines employed in gas turbine engines remains subsonic throughout the expansion process. In a transonic turbine the gas flow becomes supersonic as it exits the nozzle guide vanes, although the downstream velocities normally become subsonic. Transonic turbines operate at a higher pressure ratio than normal but are usually less efficient and uncommon.
- Contra-rotating turbines. With axial turbines, some efficiency advantage can be obtained if a downstream turbine rotates in the opposite direction to an upstream unit. However, the complication can be counter-productive. A contra-rotating steam turbine, usually known as the Ljungström turbine, was originally invented by Swedish Engineer Fredrik Ljungström (1875–1964) in Stockholm, and in partnership with his brother Birger Ljungström he obtained a patent in 1894. The design is essentially a multi-stage radial turbine (or pair of ‘nested’ turbine rotors) offering great efficiency, four times as large heat drop per stage as in the reaction (Parsons) turbine, extremely compact design and the type met particular success in back pressure power plants. However, contrary to other designs, large steam volumes are handled with difficulty and only a combination with axial flow turbines (DUREX) admits the turbine to be built for power greater than ca 50 MW. In marine applications only about 50 turbo-electric units were ordered (of which a considerable amount were finally sold to land plants) during 1917-19, and during 1920-22 a few turbo-mechanic not very successful units were sold.Only a few turbo-electric marine plants were still in use in the late 1960s (ss Ragne, ss Regin) while most land plants remain in use 2010.
- Statorless turbine. Multi-stage turbines have a set of static (meaning stationary) inlet guide vanes that direct the gas flow onto the rotating rotor blades. In a stator-less turbine the gas flow exiting an upstream rotor impinges onto a downstream rotor without an intermediate set of stator vanes (that rearrange the pressure/velocity energy levels of the flow) being encountered.
- Ceramic turbine. Conventional high-pressure turbine blades (and vanes) are made from nickel based alloys and often utilise intricate internal air-cooling passages to prevent the metal from overheating. In recent years, experimental ceramic blades have been manufactured and tested in gas turbines, with a view to increasing rotor inlet temperatures and/or, possibly, eliminating air cooling. Ceramic blades are more brittle than their metallic counterparts and carry a greater risk of catastrophic blade failure. This has tended to limit their use in jet engines and gas turbines to the stator (stationary) blades.
- Shrouded turbine. Many turbine rotor blades have shrouding at the top, which interlocks with that of adjacent blades, to increase damping and thereby reduce blade flutter. In large land-based electricity generation steam turbines, the shrouding is often complimented, especially in the long blades of a low-pressure turbine, with lacing wires. These wires pass through holes drilled in the blades at suitable distances from the blade root and are usually brazed to the blades at the point where they pass through. Lacing wires reduce blade flutter in the central part of the blades. The introduction of lacing wires substantially reduces the instances of blade failure in large or low-pressure turbines.
- Shroudless turbine. Modern practice is, wherever possible, to eliminate the rotor shrouding, thus reducing the centrifugal load on the blade and the cooling requirements.
- Bladeless turbine uses the boundary layer effect and not a fluid impinging upon the blades as in a conventional turbine.
- Water turbines
- Wind turbine. These normally operate as a single stage without nozzle and interstage guide vanes. An exception is the Éolienne Bollée, which has a stator and a rotor.
- Velocity compound “Curtis”. Curtis combined the de Laval and Parsons turbine by using a set of fixed nozzles on the first stage or stator and then a rank of fixed and rotating blade rows, as in the Parsons or de Laval, typically up to ten compared with up to a hundred stages of a Parsons design. The overall efficiency of a Curtis design is less than that of either the Parsons or de Laval designs, but it can be satisfactorily operated through a much wider range of speeds, including successful operation at low speeds and at lower pressures, which made it ideal for use in ships’ powerplant. In a Curtis arrangement, the entire heat drop in the steam takes place in the initial nozzle row and both the subsequent moving blade rows and stationary blade rows merely change the direction of the steam. Use of a small section of a Curtis arrangement, typically one nozzle section and two or three rows of moving blades, is usually termed a Curtis ‘Wheel’ and in this form, the Curtis found widespread use at sea as a ‘governing stage’ on many reaction and impulse turbines and turbine sets. This practice is still commonplace today in marine steam plant.
- Pressure compound multi-stage impulse, or “Rateau”, after its French inventor, Auguste Rateau. The Rateau employs simple impulse rotors separated by a nozzle diaphragm. The diaphragm is essentially a partition wall in the turbine with a series of tunnels cut into it, funnel-shaped with the broad end facing the previous stage and the narrow the next they are also angled to direct the steam jets onto the impulse rotor.
- Mercury vapour turbines used mercury as the working fluid, to improve the efficiency of fossil-fuelled generating stations. Although a few power plants were built with combined mercury vapour and conventional steam turbines, the toxicity of the metal mercury was quickly apparent.
- Screw turbine is a water turbine which uses the principle of the Archimedean screw to convert the potential energy of water on an upstream level into kinetic energy.