The Gas Turbine Engine (with images)
As far back as the 1500's there have been people trying to envision the gas turbine engine (of course not in the same way that we think of it today). No doubt for general industrial uses - pumping water, turning gears to crush grain, etc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_turbine
More contemporary ideas of the turbine engine as an industrial and vessel power plant came about in the early 20th century. An American man named Charles Curtis first patented the turbine engine in 1899 in the USA, without industrial success. A Frenchman in 1921 patented a modified idea of the gas turbine engine in Europe but could not bring it fruition due to limitations in manufacturing and materials.
The obvious use for this engine now focused on aviation in the 1930's, and the need for such an engine was historically significant. Two leading teams from England and Germany were successful, at the same time in the late 30's and early 40's in producing a self sustaining (operating) turbine engine and later models that could produce usable thrust. They didn't even know of each other until much later. The teams were led by:
Frank Whittle of the UK http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Whittle
and Hans von Ohain of Germany http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_von_Ohain
Both teams designed useful and successful gas turbine engines for use on aircraft. Interestingly enough, both were designing these in complete isolation of each other both in terms of physical location, political climate and with no communication, and the projects were in strict secret. Progress occurred within weeks of each other in terms of milestones of success.
To say the gas turbine engine was an important innovation in aviation would be a massive understatement. It was a revolutionary step in aviation. The turbine engine would lead the way and open barriers to massive progress in aviation, with vast implications to this day. From initial introduction, the gas turbine engine has traditionally been at the edge of attainability. It has enabled humanity to influence national borders and sociology via economic and political influence not to mention warfare. By the introduction into civilian industry, the turbine engine has been a tool in determining the rise and fall of mega transportation empires and it has boosted productivity of national GDP's. The cost and attainability of the turbine engine has traditionally been stratospheric and a symbol of the highest levels of success, status and luxury.
So now, to realize that the gas turbine engine is (amazingly enough) widely available to any old geek model airplane enthusiast who might like to use this technology in a toy airplane... Well, this is clearly a remarkable turn. Early designs for hobbiests have been around since the late 1980's, and the designs themselves have matured greatly in a relatively short time. Initial experiments used hand crafted wooden compressors and later modified auto turbo compressors, with most everything being adapted and hand made materials based on sound engineering principles and backyard mechanical talent and of course the massive leaps in knowledge attained in the aviation industry.
The hobby turbine engine pictured here is the Wren 54 MkI engine. In the late 1990's these engines were putting out 5 pounds of thrust. The current performance for this same engine line, with "similar looking" but subtly different internal parts, is 22 pounds of thrust (!) using nearly the same amount of fuel, and with exhaust gas speeds of over 800 miles per hour. The cost of purchasing a contemporary model jet engine has never been lower. Especially, considering inflation of today's costs vs. 10 years ago; meaning these engines have become quite affordable for higher end model airplane use. More importantly, the reliability and ease of use of these engines is remarkable. The hobby grade turbine engine is a viable, attainable, reliable and affordable option for high end model airplane enthusiasts complete with warranties and recommended service intervals to keep the engine running indefinitely.
Here are some very nice 3D renderings made by a man in the UK that goes by the handle JetmanUK on RCU. He's obviously a talented 3D designer but much more impressive is that he works in the "real world" and has designed many successful miniature gas turbine engines himself. You can see that while there are very few moving parts in a gas turbine engine, the design of such pieces of mechanical wonder rely heavily on precision aerodynamics and engineering of high stress and heat metals. The devil is, as they say, firmly entrenched in the details here.
PS - If any of you get anything from these photos please give credit to this man: http://www.rcuniverse.com/forum/m_11247430/tm.htm
Please respect his wishes to not use any of these images for commercial purposes as theay are copyrighted against that though he does give permission for personal use and education.
ImagesView all Images in thread
Last edited by Eddie P; Dec 27, 2012 at 02:41 AM.
Additional information for those interested: For anyone wanting to follow Allan Wheeler's twitter updates regarding miniature gas turbine engine design and operation, here is the link:
Here is an excellent article, nearly Ten Years old (1993). It describes firsts in model aviation turbojet engines. Enjoy!
And a thread about more of the earliest model airplane turbojets..
Last edited by Eddie P; Oct 28, 2012 at 08:28 PM.
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