Understanding the Difference Between Various Turbine Engines
Gas turbine engines power most modern aircraft and have streamlined air travel and aircraft technology as we know it. The differences between modern turbine engines tend to rely on how exhaust is utilized to create thrust. Overall, the parts of a turbine engine will usually include the following components: inlet/s, compressor, burner, turbine, and exhaust nozzle. Turbine engines used in modern aircraft are separated into 4 categories: turbojet engine, turboprop engine, turbofan engine, and afterburning turbojet engine.
Aircraft with this engine utilize basic turbine functionality. Air is received through an inlet and transferred to a compressor where pressure increases as the air travels to the turbine blades. Air pressure is at its highest as it enters the burner and is mixed with fuel. The turbine blades spin the heated air and release exhaust, creating thrust to power the aircraft. Excess thrust is passed through a central air shaft and feeds power to the compressor.
Units of this variation function similarly to turbojet engines. Their proprietary components include a core turbine engine and propeller. In contrast to a turbojet engine, exhaust in a turboprop is used to power thrust and the propeller. Aircraft with a turboprop will typically have two compact turbine stages equipped to their fuselage—a standard turbine to power thrust, and secondary unit to power the propeller.
This assembly allows exhaust to travel through a drive shaft to the additional turbine, and into a gearbox to feed power to the propeller. The turboprop design becomes less efficient as the aircraft speed capability increases.
This system is utilized by most modern aircraft. It is capable of high thrust and has the leading fuel efficiency of any turbine engine. In this configuration, two fans are positioned as front and rear bookends to the core engine. Known as the fan and fan turbine, the two components are connected to an additional fan shaft. Exhaust passes through the fan shaft to the core shaft and is expended from the nozzle creating what is referred to as a two-spool engine arrangement.
Excess incoming air is circulated around the core engine. The two-spool arrangement gives the turbofan engine a low bypass ratio as air passes through, and past, the core shaft. When this occurs, the fuel flow rate is changed, giving the turbofan engine more thrust than a turbojet on the same amount of fuel.
Afterburning Turbojet Engine
The component utilized by this type of turbojet is known as the “afterburner”, though the mechanism can also be installed on turbofan engines. Turbojet engines with this addition capitalize on the low bypass ratio turbofan design but add a unique component. Fighter jets and supersonic aircraft need engines that are capable of two main functions: high thrust that is quick to engage, and concession for any added drag. An afterburner manages to provide just this by injecting fuel into hot exhaust. In this case, a collection of flames in a ring are located directly after the nozzle. The component extends, and fuel is injected into the incoming exhaust. Mechanically, this allows an easy and quick way to activate thrust, however, the extra fuel injection is largely inefficient.
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