Gas turbines are utilized—and relied upon—by so many different industries and pieces of equipment, from military tanks to helicopters and power plants. Both public and private power plants throughout the country make use of these turbines, and their customers count on them, without ever knowing what makes them work and why they are advantageous.
Simply put, in gas turbines, pressurized gas spins the turbines. Specifically, a fuel within the turbine gets burned, which then creates heat that expands the air, making the turbine spin. Therefore, air is the actual working fluid, as chemical energy from the fuel is converted to mechanical energy, which drives the engine.
More specifically, the engine can be broken down into three parts: 1) the compressor 2) the combustion area, and 3) the turbine. The process itself can be broken down into four steps: 1) air intake 2) air compression 3) combustion, where fuel is injected and burned, converting the stored energy, and 4) expansion and exhaust, putting the converted energy to use. Of course, within each engine part and step of the process are many more specifics that work together to make them work so effectively.
There are several reasons why gas turbine engines are preferred over other types in certain applications. One is that they are smaller than other engine types of the same power. Another is that they have greater power-to-weight ratios than comparable engines. The actual performance requirements of gas turbines are determined by their specific application.
What many people don’t realize is that without gas turbines, everything from the lights they use to the airplanes on which they fly wouldn’t work the way we all need them to.