(a) Impulse Turbines (Velocity Based)
These turbines change the direction of flow of a high velocity fluid or gas jet. The resulting impulse spins the turbine and leaves the fluid flow with diminished kinetic energy. There is no pressure change of the fluid or gas in the turbine rotor blades (the moving blades), as in the case of a steam or gas turbine, all the pressure drop takes place in the stationary blades (the nozzles).
Before reaching the turbine, the fluid's pressure head is changed to velocity head by accelerating the fluid with a nozzle. Pelton wheels and de Laval turbines use this process exclusively. Impulse turbines do not require a pressure casement around the rotor since the fluid jet is created by the nozzle prior to reaching the blading on the rotor. Newton's second law describes the transfer of energy for impulse turbines.
Main types of impulse turbine
A Pelton turbine has one or more free jets discharging water into an aerated space and impinging on the buckets of a runner. Draft tubes are not required for impulse turbine since the runner must be located above the maximum tailwater to permit operation at atmospheric pressure.
A Turgo turbine is a variation on the Pelton. The Turgo runner is a cast wheel whose shape generally resembles a fan blade that is closed on the outer edges. The water stream is applied on one side, goes across the blades and exits on the other side.
- Cross-flow turbine
A cross-flow turbine is drum-shaped and uses an elongated, rectangular-section nozzle directed against curved vanes on a cylindrically shaped runner. It resembles a "squirrel cage" blower. The cross-flow turbine allows the water to flow through the blades twice. The first pass is when the water flows from the outside of the blades to the inside; the second pass is from the inside back out. A guide vane at the entrance to the turbine directs the flow to a limited portion of the runner. The cross-flow was developed to accommodate larger water flows and lower heads than the Pelton.
(b) Reaction Turbines (Pressure Based)
These turbines develop torque by reacting to the gas or fluid's pressure or mass. The pressure of the gas or fluid changes as it passes through the turbine rotor blades. A pressure casement is needed to contain the working fluid as it acts on the turbine stage(s) or the turbine must be fully immersed in the fluid flow (such as with wind turbines). The casing contains and directs the working fluid and, for water turbines, maintains the suction imparted by the draft tube. Francis turbines and most steam turbines use this concept. For compressible working fluids, multiple turbine stages are usually used to harness the expanding gas efficiently. Newton's third law describes the transfer of energy for reaction turbines.
In the case of steam turbines, such as would be used for marine applications or for land-based electricity generation, a Parsons type reaction turbine would require approximately double the number of blade rows as a de Laval type impulse turbine, for the same degree of heat drop. Whilst this makes the Parsons turbine much longer and heavier, the overall efficiency of a reaction turbine is slightly higher than the equivalent impulse turbine for the same heat drop.
Main types of reaction turbine
A propeller turbine generally has a runner with three to six blades in which the water contacts all of the blades constantly. Picture a boat propeller running in a pipe. Through the pipe, the pressure is constant; if it isn't, the runner would be out of balance. The pitch of the blades may be fixed or adjustable. The major components besides the runner are a scroll case, wicket gates, and a draft tube. There are several different types of propeller turbines:
- Bulb turbine
The turbine and generator are a sealed unit placed directly in the water stream.
The generator is attached directly to the perimeter of the turbine.
- Tube turbine
The penstock bends just before or after the runner, allowing a straight line connection to the generator.
Both the blades and the wicket gates are adjustable, allowing for a wider range of operation.
- Bulb turbine
A Francis turbine has a runner with fixed buckets (vanes), usually nine or more. Water is introduced just above the runner and all around it and then falls through, causing it to spin. Besides the runner, the other major components are the scroll case, wicket gates, and draft tube.
Kinetic energy turbines, also called free-flow turbines, generate electricity from the kinetic energy present in flowing water rather than the potential energy from the head. The systems may operate in rivers, man-made channels, tidal waters, or ocean currents. Kinetic systems utilize the water stream's natural pathway. They do not require the diversion of water through manmade channels, riverbeds, or pipes, although they might have applications in such conduits. Kinetic systems do not require large civil works; however, they can use existing structures such as bridges, tailraces and channels.
(Figure showing the theory of operation of both types)