The Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) allows the conversion of low-grade heat sources into electricity. Although this technology is not new, the increase in energy demand and the need to reduce CO2 emissions create new opportunities to harvest low grade heat sources such as waste heat. Radial turbines have a simple construction, they are robust and they are not very sensitive to geometry inaccuracies. Most of the radial inflow turbines used for ORC application feature a vaned nozzle ensuring the appropriate distribution angle at the rotor inlet. In this work, no nozzle is considered but only the vaneless gap (distributor). This configuration, without any vaned nozzle, is supposed to be more flexible under varying operating conditions with respect to fixed vanes and to maintain a good efficiency at off-design. This paper presents a performance analysis carried out by means of two approaches: a combination of meanline loss models enhanced with real gas fluid properties and 3D CFD computations, taking into account the entire turbomachine including the scroll housing, the vaneless gap, the turbine wheel and the axial discharge pipe. A detailed analysis of the flow field through the turbomachine is carried out, both under design and off design conditions, with a particular focus on the entropy field in order to evaluate the loss distribution between the scroll housing, the vaneless gap and the turbine wheel.

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