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Born in Europe, the Gas Turbine Launched a Global Industry 75 Years Ago PUBLIC ACCESS

[+] Author Notes
Septimus van der Linden

President BRULIN Associates LLC

Mechanical Engineering 136(04), 53-55 (Apr 01, 2014) (2 pages) Paper No: ME-14-APR4; doi: 10.1115/1.2014-Apr-4

Abstract

This article discusses the developments taken place in the gas turbine global industry in nearly 75 years. Several significant events for both the industrial and aviation gas turbine industry occurred as the dark clouds of WWII gathered. The first utility gas turbine to generate electricity was developed by Brown Boveri and installed in the town of Neuchâtel, Switzerland 75 years ago. On 7th July 1939, it was full power tested at 4 MW in Baden, Switzerland. In terms of energy conversion, the gas turbine is relatively new from a historic perspective, being only 75 years young. The potential of the gas turbine was presented in a technical paper in February 1939, by Dr. Adolf Meyer, former Director of BBC Brown Boveri, at a meeting of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London. The modern Combined Cycle Plant achieves better than 60% efficiency and possibilities of 65% are foreseen as cycle improvements will improve incrementally.

Article

“It is appropriate that ASME Turbo Expo 2014 is held in Europe, specifically Düsseldorf, Germany. Whether by coincidence or not, it is a great occasion for the gas turbine industry to reflect on its humble beginnings 75 years ago.”

Grahic Jump Location“It is appropriate that ASME Turbo Expo 2014 is held in Europe, specifically Düsseldorf, Germany. Whether by coincidence or not, it is a great occasion for the gas turbine industry to reflect on its humble beginnings 75 years ago.”

Several significant events for both the industrial and aviation gas turbine industry occurred as the dark clouds of WWII gathered.

The first utility gas turbine to generate electricity was developed by Brown Boveri and installed in the town of Neuchâtel, Switzerland 75 years ago. On July 7th, 1939, it was full power tested at 4 MW in Baden, Switzerland. Key to this engineering breakthrough was the successful demonstration of an efficient axial compressor developed by Claude Seippel of BBC. Turbo-compressors were the early forerunners of several applications, specifically the Houdry process in refineries. Some years later, development of the axial compressor brought success to the aviation gas turbines that crowd the skies today.

Interestingly, the first gas turbine flight also took place in 1939. On August 27th, a Heinkel He 178 aircraft, powered by a Turbojet using Hans von Ohain's radial compressor design, made its maiden flight from Rostock-Marienehe, Germany. Whittle's turbojet design had been turned down in 1930. Three years later, Hans von Ohain, a German engineering student with no knowledge of Whittle's work, wrote a paper proposing a strikingly similar jet engine. The first British jet plane, the Gloster, took off in 1941. The German Messerschmitt MW-262 “Deadly Swallow” was the first jet fighter aircraft, claiming 542 Allied kills in WW II.

In terms of energy conversion, the gas turbine is relatively new from a historic perspective, being only 75 years young this year. However, the potential of the gas turbine was presented in a technical paper in February, 1939, by Dr. Adolf Meyer, former Director of BBC Brown Boveri, at a meeting of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London. It was titled, “The Combustion Gas Turbine: Its History, Development and Prospects.” Dr. Meyer concluded that the subject of combustion turbines “...is a promising one, full of interesting possibilities.” The author believed these prospects were based on raising the turbine inlet temperature in the near future to 648̊C (1,200̊F) from 538̊C (1,000̊F), raising the cycle efficiency (of the Neuchatel machine) from 18% to 23%, representing an improvement of 28%. This possibility was not only realized through further combustion turbine development but exceeded, viz. increasing turbine inlet temperature of 1,010̊C -- 1,121̊C (1,850̊F -2,050̊F) and, in modern utility sized units, with 1,260̊C (2,300̊F) to 1,500̊C (2,732̊F) firing temp and beyond. In his prescient conclusion, Dr. Meyer foresaw further cycle developments and improvements for the gas turbine as a motive power source for steam driven locomotives and ships, as well as alternatives for wind tunnel drives, blast furnace plants and, finally, a challenge to conventional steam power plants. There, the combustion turbine would be utilized with the recovery of exhaust heat to produce steam for the steam turbine in a combined gas turbine steam plant that would be more economical due to higher efficiencies and lower cost per kilowatt installed. The modern Combined Cycle Plant achieves better than 60 % efficiency and possibilities of 65 % are foreseen as cycle improvements will improve incrementally.

The 4 MW gas turbine municipal power station at Neuchatel, Switzerland, is the 26th International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark to be designated and the 8th to be designated outside of the United States. Others are located in England (3), France, West Germany, Australia and China. After 62 years of service, the Neuchatel unit was retired, then relocated and rededicated by the ASME International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark Committee in Birr, Switzerland, as a museum exhibit in 2007.

Originally designated in 1988, the Gas Turbine was still in operation. It remained in service until 2002 when it was retired. In 2005, ALSTOM, a successor company to Brown Boveri—the original manufacturer—decided to preserve and restore the landmark. ALSTOM acquired the landmark from the owner, Service Industriels de la Ville de Neuchâtel, relocated it to its factory in Birr, Switzerland, restored it and put in on public display in a building especially built to house and preserve the landmark. Re-dedicated 2007

Grahic Jump LocationOriginally designated in 1988, the Gas Turbine was still in operation. It remained in service until 2002 when it was retired. In 2005, ALSTOM, a successor company to Brown Boveri—the original manufacturer—decided to preserve and restore the landmark. ALSTOM acquired the landmark from the owner, Service Industriels de la Ville de Neuchâtel, relocated it to its factory in Birr, Switzerland, restored it and put in on public display in a building especially built to house and preserve the landmark. Re-dedicated 2007

When Brown Boveri was launched in 1891, over 100 years ago, its two founding engineers were Charles E.L. Brown, an English electrical engineer and inventor, and J. Walter D. Boveri, a Bavarian mechanical engineer and an astute businessman. This unique formula would prove to become a dominant force in the success of power generating equipment and set the stage for the modern Global Gas Turbine Industry to be represented by the delegates attending ASME Turbo Expo 2014 in Dusseldorf, Germany, June 16-20, 2014.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
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