More about Gas Turbine Engine
The most common form of propulsion of aircraft is through the form of the gas turbine engine, such as the turbojet and turbofan. Gas turbine engines function by combusting liquid hydrocarbon fuel, creating mechanical energy in the form of high pressure and high temperature airstreams that are harnessed by the airplane propeller, which results in thrust. This thrust is what propels the aircraft and enables it to take flight successfully.
Although there are various forms of power plants, including internal combustion engines and electrical drives, there are various distinguishing factors of gas turbine engines that separate them from other types, while also providing benefit to aircraft. With all engines, there is waste heat that is created that must be rejected, and the drawbacks of this heat increase along with airspeed. With gas turbine engines however, this heat travels out as exhaust and actually works to generate positive thrust. Many gas turbine engines, such as high bypass ratio turbofan engines, are at constant throttle settings that vary in the same ways that current airliners need. These airliners require about three to five more times the thrust to take off than they do to cruise. This enables gas turbine engines to be very well suited for such airliners, also providing the benefit of increased motor efficiency during cruise flight.
With gas turbine engines, there is a tradeoff between the high thermal loads placed on turbine parts with the performance demands, and heat poses a risk with gas temperatures so high that it actually begins to soften and melt the metal of the engine. The intense heat of these gas paths must be combatted, and there are a few ways in which they are. One method in which intense gas heat is combated is through using complex channels within components that are created specifically for blowing cool air through to cool the engine. Another method that proves useful is sending the cool air into the path of hot gas so that it begins to form a protective film around the turbine. With both of these methods, there is some cost of engine efficiency, but the component life expectancy is increased.
While there are other types of engines that are finding a slow rise in popularity, the gas turbine engine still remains as the dominant type in high speed aviation for the foreseeable future. Leading industrial nations also recognize the continued lucrativity of these turbines and continue their investment in them. With their benefits to aircraft thus far, gas turbine engines prove very beneficial for aircraft manufacturers and jet engine manufacturers as a whole.
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