Design of Internal Cooling Passages: Investigation of Thermal Performance of Serpentine Passages

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Gas turbines are used to convert thermal energy into mechanical energy. The thermal efficiency of the gas turbine is directly related to the turbine inlet temperature. The combustion and turbine technology has improved to such an extent that the operating temperature in the turbine inlet is higher than the melting temperature of the turbine material. Different techniques are used to cope with this problem. One of the most commonly used methods is internal cooling of the turbine blades. Conventionally air from the compressor is used for this purpose but due to higher heat capacity, steam can be used as coolant. This opens up the possibility to increase the gas temperature. In the case of a combined cycle power plant, its availability provides a good opportunity to be used as a coolant.The trailing edge of the gas turbine blades is an important region as it affects the aerodynamics of the flow. The aerodynamics demands a sharp and thin trailing edge to reduce profile losses. The conventional method is the release of a lot of cooling air though a slot along the airfoil trailing edge. However in the case of internal only cooling designs, the coolant is not allowed to leave the channel except from the root section to avoid mixing of the gas in the main flow path with the coolant and loss of cooling medium.The challenge is to design an inner cooling channel, with the cooling medium entering and leaving the blade at the root section, which reduces the metal temperatures to the required values without an increase of the profile losses and at acceptable cooling flow rate and pressure drop.This thesis presents Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) based numerical work concentrated firstly on the flow and heat transfer in two-pass rectangular channels with and without turbulator ribs. The aspect ratio of the inlet pass was reduced to accommodate more channels in the blade profile in chord-wise direction. Additionally, the divider-to-tip wall distance was varied for these channels. Their effect on heat transfer and pressure drop was studied for smooth as well as ribbed channels.  It was followed by a numerical heat transfer study in the trapezoidal channel. Different RANS based turbulence models were used to compare the numerical results with the experimental results. Further, new designs to enhance heat transfer in the channel’s side walls (named as trailing edge wall) were studied. These include the provision of ribs at the trailing edge wall only, inline arrangement of ribs at the bottom as well as at the trailing edge wall and a staggered arrangement of these ribs. The final study was a conjugate heat transfer problem with an aim to propose the best internal cooling channel design to reduce the metal temperature of the trailing edge surface for the given thermal and flow conditions. A number of different options were studied and changes were made to get the best possible channel design.The results show that for a two-pass rectangular channel (both smooth and ribbed), the reduction in inlet channel aspect ratio reduces the pressure drop. For a smooth channel the reduction in the width of the inlet pass does not affect the heat transfer enhancement at the inlet pass and outlet pass regions. In case of ribbed channels, heat transfer decreases at the tip and bend bottom with decrease in the width of the inlet pass. Among different turbulence models used to validate numerical results against experimental results for case of trapezoidal channel, the low-Re k-epsilon model is found to be the most appropriate. Using the turbulence model that yields results that are closest to the experimental data, the staggered arrangement of ribs at the trailing edge wall is found to have maximum thermal performance. The results from the conjugate heat transfer problem suggest using steam as coolant if it is available as it requires less mass flow rate to get similar wall temperature values as compared to air at similar thermal and flow conditions. It is also found that staggered arrangement of ribs is the best option compared to others to enhance heat transfer in trailing edge of the gas turbine blade with the pressure drop in the cooling duct in the acceptable range.

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