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Assessment of Tesla Turbine Performance for Small Scale Solar Rankine Combined Heat and Power Systems

[+] Author Affiliations
Van P. Carey

University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

Paper No. IMECE2009-10814, pp. 769-777; 9 pages
  • ASME 2009 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 9: Heat Transfer, Fluid Flows, and Thermal Systems, Parts A, B and C
  • Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA, November 13–19, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4382-6 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3863-1
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME


For solar Rankine cycle combined heat and power systems for residential buildings and other small-scale applications (producing 1–10 kWe), a low manufacturing cost, robust and durable expander is especially attractive. The Tesla turbine design has these desired features. This paper summarizes a theoretical exploration of the performance of a Tesla Turbine as the expander in a small-scale Rankine cycle combine heat and power system. A one-dimensional idealized model of momentum transfer in the turbine rotor is presented which can be used to predict the efficiency of the turbine for typical conditions in these systems. The model adopts a non-dimensional formulation that identifies the dimensionless parameters that dictate performance features of the turbine. The model is shown to agree well with experimental performance data obtained in earlier tests of prototype Tesla turbine units. The model is used to explore the performance of this type of turbine for Rankine cycle applications using water as a working fluid. The model indicates that isentropic efficiencies above 0.70 can be achieved if the operating conditions are tailored in an optimal way. The scalability of the turbine design, and the impact of the theoretical model predictions on development of solar combined heat and power systems are also discussed.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME



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