It is impossible to function in modern life without electricity. We need it for light and power in our homes, businesses, and schools, and we rely on power plants that deliver this essential service 24/7x365 days a year. This makes the electricity production process critical to understand for those who depend on power sources in their daily lives
While power plants discussed before are those that create and transfer power for homes and businesses, powerplants in the context of aviation are something very different. For aircraft applications, powerplants are the engines that serve to create the power and energy necessary for flight. Gas and steam turbines are the two most conventional options for aircraft power generation. Both turbines have different sets of operations to enhance their performance. This blog will give you detailed information about the gas turbine and steam turbine, their difference, and which is more efficient.
What Is a Gas Turbine?
A gas turbine is a type of thermal turbomachinery that works by converting the potential energy of a pressurized fluid into mechanical energy. They are one the most widespread and reliable sources of power generation. Gas turbines are internal combustion engines that use the gasses from air as their working fluid. These turbines consist of a compressor, combustion chamber, turbine, and rotating shaft.
A gas turbine takes gasses from atmospheric air and compresses them in the compressor (axial compressor). The compressed gas then moves to a combustion chamber. Here, the compressed gas is mixed with fuel and ignited. The combustion results in high temperature and high-pressure gas passing through turbine blades, causing them to rotate. An average gas turbine has shaft rotation rates up to 10,000 RPM, whereas smaller turbines can produce five times as much.
What Is a Steam Turbine?
A steam turbine is an efficient machine that extracts energy from pressurized hot water. The pressurized steam from the boiler enters the turbine and moves through the blades causing it to rotate and produce electricity. Steam turbines can deliver power with higher efficiency of about 90% more than reciprocating engines. The steam turbine design is simple and has only one turbine component, but it requires boilers, heat exchangers, pumps, and condensers for functioning.
The Difference Between Gas Turbines and Steam Turbines
The primary difference between both the turbines is their working fluid. While steam turbines use high-pressure steam, gas turbines use air. Additionally, there is a difference in their output. Whereas gas turbines can deliver both torque and thrust, steam turbines only deliver torque. However, steam turbines are much more efficient than gas turbines when it comes to efficiency. Another major difference between the two is that gas turbines take less energy than steam turbines to operate due to implementing extended equipment like boilers and heat exchangers. In addition, steam turbines are modeled by Rankine Cycle, whereas gas turbines are based on the Brayton cycle.
In addition, Gas turbines are more versatile than steam turbines because they can use a variety of fuels, and their working fluid is readily available everywhere. On the other hand, water has to be fed continuously into the system for efficient steam-turbine operation, and in cold environments, frigid temperatures may inhibit product operations due to icing. Starting a gas turbine is much quicker and easier than a steam turbine as that latter has a lengthier starting process. Gas turbines are significantly hotter than steam turbines as the reaction in a gas turbine reaches upward of 1,500 degrees Celsius, while it can only get as hot as 500-700 degrees Celsius in a steam turbine.
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