In order to reach 40% efficiency, sub-MW turbines must operate in a recuperated gas Brayton cycle at a turbine inlet temperature (TIT) above 1300°C. Current sub-MW turbines have material-related operating temperature limits. Still to this day, there is no cost-effective rotor design which operates at such high temperatures. This paper introduces a novel, sliding-blade, inside-out ceramic turbine (ICT) wheel configuration, which could enable high-efficiency sub-MW recuperated engines to be achieved with cheap monolithic ceramic blades.

The inside-out configuration uses a rotating structural hoop, or shroud, to convert centrifugal forces into compressive blade loading. The sliding-blade architecture uses a hub with angled planes on which ceramic blades slide up and down, allowing to match the radial expansion of the structural shroud. This configuration generates low stress values in both ceramic and metallic components and can achieve high tip speeds.

A prototype is designed and its reliability is calculated using CARES software. The result is a design which has a single blade probability of failure (Pf) of 0.1% for 1000 h of steady operation. Analyses also demonstrate that reliability is greatly dependent on friction at ceramic-to-metal interfaces. Low friction could lead to acceptable reliability levels for engine applications. The prototype was successfully tested in a laboratory turbine environment at a tip speed of 350 m/s and a TIT of 1100 °C without any damage.

These achievements demonstrate the robustness of the sliding-blade ICT configuration. Further research and development will focus on increasing tip speed and TIT to higher values.

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