From: Editor, Science Daily
Published March 7, 2011 08:38 AM

Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Brayton Cycle Turbines Promise Giant Leap in Power Generation

ScienceDaily (Mar. 4, 2011) — Sandia National Laboratories researchers are moving into the demonstration phase of a novel gas turbine system for power generation, with the promise that thermal-to-electric conversion efficiency will be increased to as much as 50 percent -- an improvement of 50 percent for nuclear power stations equipped with steam turbines, or a 40 percent improvement for simple gas turbines. The system is also very compact, meaning that capital costs would be relatively low.


Research focuses on supercritical carbon dioxide (S-CO2) Brayton-cycle turbines, which typically would be used for bulk thermal and nuclear generation of electricity, including next-generation power reactors. The goal is eventually to replace steam-driven Rankine cycle turbines, which have lower efficiency, are corrosive at high temperature and occupy 30 times as much space because of the need for very large turbines and condensers to dispose of excess steam. The Brayton cycle could yield 20 megawatts of electricity from a package with a volume as small as four cubic meters.

The Brayton cycle, named after George Brayton, originally functioned by heating air in a confined space and then releasing it in a particular direction. The same principle is used to power jet engines today.

"This machine is basically a jet engine running on a hot liquid," said principal investigator Steve Wright of Sandia's Advanced Nuclear Concepts group. "There is a tremendous amount of industrial and scientific interest in supercritical CO2 systems for power generation using all potential heat sources including solar, geothermal, fossil fuel, biofuel and nuclear."

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