Microturbine

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Microturbines are becoming widespread for distributed power and combined heat and power applications. 

Part of their success is due to advances in electronics, which allows unattended operation and interfacing with the commercial power grid. Electronic power switching technology eliminates the need for the generator to be synchronized with the power grid. This allows the generator to be integrated with the turbine shaft, and to double as the starter motor.

Microturbine systems have many advantages over reciprocating engine generators, such as higher power to weight ratio, extremely low emissions and few, or just one, moving part. Advantages are that microturnbines may be designed with foil bearings and air-cooling operating without lubricating oil, coolants or other hazardous materials. Microturbines also have a further advantage of having the majority of the waste heat contained in the relatively high temperature exhaust making it simpler to capture, whereas the waste heat of reciprocating engines is split between its exhaust and cooling system. [10] However, reciprocating engine generators are quicker to respond to changes in output power requirement and are usually slightly more efficient, although the efficiency of microturbines is increasing. Microturbines also lose more efficiency at low power levels than reciprocating engines. When used in vehicles the static efficiency drawback is negated by the superior power - weight ratio - the vehicle does not have to pull a heavy engine and transmission.

They accept most commercial fuels, such as gasoline, natural gas, propane, diesel, and kerosene as well as renewable fuels such as E85, biodiesel and biogas.

Microturbine designs usually consist of a single stage radial compressor, a single stage radial turbine and a recuperator. Recuperators are difficult to design and manufacture because they operate under high pressure and temperature differentials. Exhaust heat can be used for water heating, space heating, drying processes or absorption chillers, which create cold for air conditioning from heat energy instead of electric energy.

Typical microturbine efficiencies are 25 to 35%. When in a combined heat and power cogeneration system, efficiencies of greater than 80% are commonly achieved.