Abstract

Owing to the high energy density of hydrocarbon fuels, ultra-micro gas turbines with power outputs below 1 kW have clear potential as battery replacement in drones. However, previous works on gas turbines of this scale revealed severe challenges due to air bearing failures, heat transfer from turbine to compressor, rotordynamic instability and manufacturing limitations. To overcome these obstacles, a novel gas turbine architecture is proposed based on conventional roller bearing technology that operates at up to 500,000 RPM and an additively manufactured monolithic rotor in cantilevered configuration, equipped with internal cooling blades. The optimum turbomachinery design is elaborated using diabatic cycle calculation, coupled with turbomachinery meanline design code. This approach provides new insights on the interdependencies of heat transfer, component efficiency and system electric efficiency. Thereby, a reduced design pressure ratio of 2.5 with 1200 K turbine inlet temperature is identified as most suitable for 300 W electric power output. In following, a review of available additive manufacturing technologies yields material properties, surface roughness and design constraints for the monolithic rotor. Rotordynamic simulations are then conducted for four available materials using a simplified rotor model to identify valid permanent magnet dimensions that would avoid operation close to bending modes. To complete the baseline engine architecture, a novel radial inflow combustor concept is proposed based on porous inert media combustion. CFD simulations are conducted to quantify compressor efficiency and conjugate heat transfer analysis of the monolithic rotor is performed to assess the benefit of the internal cooling cavity and vanes for different rotor materials. It is demonstrated that the cavity flow absorbs large amount of heat flux from turbine to compressor, thus cooling the rotor structure and improving the diabatic cycle efficiency. Finally, the results of this conceptual study show that ultra-micro gas turbine with electric efficiency of up to 5% is feasible, while energy density is increased by factor of 3.6, compared to lithium-ion batteries.

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