Numerical Investigation on the Performance of a Regenerative Flow Turbine for Small-Scale Organic Rankine Cycle Systems
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In this study, the performance characteristics of a regenerative flow turbine (RFT) prototype have been investigated by means of a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) study. The prototype has been initially designed to be used in gas pipelines replacing expansion valves but, because of the intrinsic characteristics of this kind of expander, its use can be extended to other applications like the expansion process in small-scale organic Rankine cycle (ORC) plants. In the first part of this work, the numerical results of the CFD analysis have been validated with the experimental data reported in literature for the same turbine prototype. After the validation of the model, a detailed study has been carried out in order to evaluate specific features of the turbine, focusing the attention on the typical operating conditions of small-scale low-temperature ORC systems. Results have shown that the considered RFT prototype operates with higher isentropic efficiencies (about 32% at 6000 rpm) at lower mass flow rates, while the power output is penalized compared to other operating points. The numerical analysis has also pointed out the high impact of the losses in the leakage flow in the gap between the blade tips and the stripper walls. Therefore, the CFD analysis carried out has provided a thoughtful understanding of the performance of the expander at varying operating conditions and useful insights for the future redesign of this kind of machine for the application in small-scale ORCs.