Brayton Cycle – Turbine Engine
In 1872, an American engineer, George Bailey Brayton advanced the study of heat engines by patenting a constant pressure internal combustion engine, initially using vaporized gas but later using liquid fuels such as kerosene. This heat engine is known as “Brayton’s Ready Motor”. It means, the original Brayton engine used a piston compressor and piston expander instead of a gas turbine and gas compressor.
Today, modern gas turbine engines and airbreathing jet engines are also a constant-pressure heat engines, therefore we describe their thermodynamics by the Brayton cycle. In general, the Brayton cycle describes the workings of a constant-pressure heat engine.
It is the one of most common thermodynamic cycles that can be found in gas turbine power plants or in airplanes. In contrast to Carnot cycle, the Brayton cycle does not execute isothermal processes, because these must be performed very slowly. In an ideal Brayton cycle, the system executing the cycle undergoes a series of four processes: two isentropic (reversible adiabatic) processes alternated with two isobaric processes.
Since Carnot’s principle states that no engine can be more efficient than a reversible engine (a Carnot heat engine) operating between the same high temperature and low temperature reservoirs, a gas turbine based on the Brayton cycle must have lower efficiency than the Carnot efficiency.
A large single-cycle gas turbine typically produces for example 300 megawatts of electric power and has 35–40% thermal efficiency. Modern Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plants, in which the thermodynamic cycle of consists of two power plant cycles (e.g. the Brayton cycle and the Rankine cycle), can achieve a thermal efficiency of around 55%.
The Ericsson cycle is named after a Swedish-American inventor John Ericsson, who designed and built many unique heat engines based on various thermodynamic cycles. He is credited with inventing two unique heat engine cycles and developing practical engines based on these cycles.
His first thermodynamic cycle “the first Ericsson cycle” is now called the “Brayton cycle”, in fact it is the closed Brayton cycle, which is commonly applied to modern closed cycle gas turbine engines.
Brayton Cycle vs Ericsson Cycle
The second Ericsson cycle is what is now called the Ericsson cycle. The second Ericsson cycle is similar to the Brayton cycle, but uses external heat and incorporates the multiple use of an intercooling and reheat. In fact, it is like a Brayton cycle with an infinite number of reheat and intercooler stages in the cycle. Compared to the Brayton cycle which uses adiabatic compression and expansion, an ideal Ericsson cycle consists of isothermal compression and expansion processes, combined with isobaric heat regeneration between them. Applying intercooling, heat regeneration and sequential combustion significantly increases thermal efficiency of a turbine, in fact, the thermal efficiency of the ideal Ericsson cycle equals to the Carnot efficiency.