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THE HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF TURBOMACHINERY ( the-historical-evolution-turbomachinery )

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THE HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF TURBOMACHINERY by Cyrus B. Meher-Homji Chief Engineer, Gas Turbine Division Mee Industries Inc. Monrovia, California Cyrus B. Meher-Homji is Chief Engineer of Mee Industries Inc.’ s Gas Turbine Division. His 20 years of industry expe- rience include gas turbine and compressor design, O&M, and engine development. He has developed several aerothermal and transient analysis techniques for the condition monitoring of gas turbines and has acted as consultant to operating plants worldwide in reliability, operating prob- lems, and failure analysis. Before joining Mee Industries, he worked as Turbomachinery Specialist at Bechtel Corporation on gas turbine and compressor projects. Mr. Meher-Homji has a BSME degree from Shivaji University, an M.E. degree from Texas A&M University, and an MBA degree from the University of Houston. He is a Fellow of ASME, a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Texas, and has publications in turbomachinery engineering, including several award winning ASME papers on performance deterioration and condition monitoring. He is active on several Committees of the International Gas Turbine Institute. ABSTRACT This paper presents a comprehensive treatise of the antecedents, evolution, developments, and inventions relating to turbo- machinery from early paddle wheels to modern turbojets emphasizing the constant challenge, failures, and problems faced by engineers as they strived toward developing higher performance turbomachinery. Both normal technology and radical innovations are covered. Radical innovations or technologies are those that allow quantum leaps in turbomachinery technology. Particular emphasis is paid to the turbojet revolution that occurred before and during the Second World War, which ended the dominance of the reciprocating engine for aircraft propulsion and spurred technological advancements, leading to today’s advanced turbomachines. INTRODUCTION From antiquity to the present day, there has been a constant quest for the mastering of power. From man’s beginning to 1700 AD, all the motive power was provided by men or animals. Thereafter, there has been a rapid growth of technology encompassing hydraulic turbines, steam engines, and steam and gas turbines, culminating in the modern turbofan engine that represents the state-of-the-art of turbomachinery engineering today. In any technical development, it is of critical importance to examine the historical antecedents that preceded it and examine the underlying causes creating the technology. George Santayana pointed out in his famous dictum: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness....those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In the design of a new and complex turbomachine such as a gas turbine or compressor that pushes the envelope of technology, it is not always possible or realistic to design it perfectly the first time. Encompassed within the history of turbomachinery development are several instances of problems that had to be solved at great personal and financial cost. Petroski (1992) has studied the area of the role of failure in engineering design and points out the importance of how history can help in avoiding past mistakes. Another excellent reference is a book by Whyte (1975), entitled Engineering Progress Through Trouble, which presents case histories covering a wide range of equipment, including the Whittle turbojet, the famous QE2 steam turbine blade failures, and the failures of the Comet Aircraft. In an age of unprecedented technological growth, we are often told that technology and knowledge are accelerating in an exponential fashion. We must recognize, however, that on a historic time scale, we are examining an exceedingly tiny period of human development as depicted in Table 1. This table represents a compression of the elapsed time from the Big Bang event to the present day and puts in perspective the fact that on a cosmic scale, our knowledge is still in its infancy. In a few decades, the technology that we now are so enthralled with will, in all probability, be a thing of the past in the same manner that steam engines, once mankind’s dominant prime mover, are now relics. We will not even be able to comprehend or understand some of the technologies that will be present in a few hundred years. Table 1. Time Compression from the Big Bang to the Present Showing Technology Development. TIME- COMPRESSED EVENTS AND SCALED TO 1 YEAR Big Bang Jan 1st Origin of (Our) Milky Way Galaxy May 1st Origin of the Solar System Sept 9th Formation of the Earth Sept 14th Jurassic Period Dec 27th First Humans Dec 31st, 10:30 PM Invention of Agriculture Dec 31st, 11:59:20 PM Bronze metallurgy, Trojan wars, invention of the compass Dec 31st, 11:59:53 PM Iron Metallurgy Dec 31st, 11:59:54 PM Euclidean Geometry, Archimedean Physics, Roman Empire, Birth of Christ Dec 31st, 11:59:56 PM Renaissance in Europe, experimental methods in science Dec 31st, 11:59:59 PM Wide developments in science and technology, power, turbomachinery, Last second of the year flight, space flight , computers, i.e., NOW This paper provides a historical trace of the technological background and the incentives that were present for developments leading to modern day turbomachinery. Due to the constraints of space it is impossible to deal with all the contributors to turbomachinery engineering and there are, consequently, large gaps in the history ahead, with many famous names and inventions going unmentioned. Considerable emphasis has been placed in this paper on gas turbine technology and evolution and the early jet engine work in Britain, Germany, and the US. There are two basic reasons for this emphasis: • Modern day gas turbine and turbojet engines represent the state- of-the-art of turbomachinery design and are the most sophisticated turbomachines available today. Many of the technological advancements and design techniques in the gas turbine area permeate down to industrial compressor and steam turbine applications. 281


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