The use of radial-inflow turbine (RIT) for organic Rankine cycle (ORC) plant sizes below 100 kW is promising, although the application remains challenging. In fact, the single-stage arrangement imposed by economic constraints and hence the large expansion ratio, together with the large molecular weight, which characterizes organic fluids, usually result in highly supersonic flows, so making the use of transonic stators often mandatory.
Particularly, the influence of RIT stator design parameters on losses and the level of unsteadiness seen by the subsequent rotor is still scarcely addressed in published literature.
The present work investigates the effect of the convergent–divergent stators design parameters and the resulting downstream flow field non-uniformity on the unsteady stator–rotor interaction and loss generation in ORC RIT.
To this end, two stator and rotor configurations which differ by the stator design parameters (i.e., discharge metal angle and number of vanes) have been tested by means of three-dimensional (3D) unsteady CFD calculations accounting for real-gas properties.
The results show that larger stator–rotor interaction is present for the case featuring higher vane count and lower outlet metal, which also features the largest fluctuations of power output and pressure force on blade, together with a substantially lower average total-to-static efficiency, as a result of a larger stator downstream pitchwise non-uniformity.
Ultimately, the results indicate that only aiming for optimal stator efficiency during the stator design phase might lead to highly suboptimal configurations from the whole turbine stage point of view.