Expander, Spool Expander, Spool Compressor, Organic Rankine Cycle, Waste Heat Recovery
The increasing cost of energy, coupled with the recent drive for energy security and climate change mitigation have provided the impetus for harnessing renewable energy sources as viable alternatives to conventional fossil fuels. Furthermore, recovering heat that is discharged from power plants, automobiles and various other industrial processes is of growing interest. Nevertheless, technologies attempting to provide small-scale heat recovery solutions have seen very limited commercialization. This is broadly due to two reasons: lack of historical research and development in the area of waste-heat recovery and small-scale power generation due to technical and cost impediments; and technical challenges associated with scaling the technology from utility-scale to commercial-scale, particularly with regard to expansion machines (turbines). However, due to rising primary energy costs and the environmental premium being placed on fossil fuels, the conversion from low-grade heat to electrical energy as well as small-scale distributed power generation is of increasing interest. In this regard, this project focuses on a novel rotating spool expansion machine at the heart of an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), which in turn is used as a heat recovery system. A comprehensive simulation model of the rotating spool expander is presented. The spool expander provides a new rotating expansion mechanism with easily manufactured components. Apart from efficiency improvements compared with other rotary machines, the spool expander also has the ability to control the expansion ratio using a novel mechanically-driven suction valve mechanism. Another advantage is the relocation of the face sealing surfaces to the outer radius of the device. The spool expander is also scalable to a size range (50-200 kW) that is too large for conventional positive displacement machines, and too small for dynamic machines with respect to manufacturability, efficiency and cost. A detailed analytical geometry model of the spool expander and the suction valve mechanism is presented. This geometry model forms a part of a comprehensive model that includes submodels for friction, leakage, and heat transfer. The results of the comprehensive model are validated using experimental data from a 50 kW prototype expander in an ORC system. Given the promise of the technology, this paper explores the design space using both a simulation based approach as well as an experimental prototype for concept validation.