Turbomachinery: Unlocking Engine Efficiency

You might have noticed that the airlines, even as they struggle to stay in the black, have lately been ordering new airplanes by the dozens. A big reason is that the new planes being developed by the likes of Boeing and Airbus will have engines that run more efficiently – making them both cheaper to operate and easier on the environment.

This phenomenon points to the importance that turbomachinery – the broad term for the transfer of energy between rotors and fluids – plays in advancing clean-energy goals, and emphasizes the importance of work by researchers like Jen-Ping Chen, at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. Chen’s focus is on giving engineers new, improved software for testing turbomachinery components, helping drive research and development in the field.

turbomachinery computer simulations

image via Shutterstock

But wait: Why use simulations when such testing can be done in a wind tunnel? As Ohio State University notes in its report on Chen’s work, “traditional wind-tunnel testing is often the most straightforward approach” to testing turbomachinery. But it can be expensive, and often there’s not a lot of flexibility as to where measurement probes are placed, the university notes. Thus the importance of computation fluid dynamics (CFD) software.

“Our goal is to develop a reliable prediction technology to help improve turbomachinery component design,” Chen says in the university’s report. “The successful combination of CFD simulation and experimentation can greatly supplement the understanding of fundamental fluid behavior of gas turbine systems, thus enhancing the ability of engineers to develop more advanced engine components.”

And that helps drive efficiency in an endless range of devices.

“The world is demanding increasingly cleaner, more efficient and reliable power systems,” Ashok Krishnamurthy, interim co-executive director at the Ohio Supercomputer Center, said in a statement. “Therefore, it is essential that experts like Dr. Chen find innovative ways to improve the tools the engineers need to accomplish that goal.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • eric burns

    So, who says we are an intelligent species?The sad thing is that it is not done for the conservation of our planet, but for lousy profit. If this is the best we can do to avoid irreversible climate change, we deserve every bit of misery coming our way.u00a0