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Design and Performance Analysis of a Supercritical CO2 Radial Inflow Tur-


Kehan Zhou, Jiangfeng Wang, Jiaxi Xia, Yumin Guo, Pan Zhao, Yiping Dai

PII: S1359-4311(19)32632-8
Reference: ATE 114757

To appear in: Applied Thermal Engineering

Received Date: 19 April 2019

Revised Date: 26 November 2019
Accepted Date: 1 December 2019

Please cite this article as: K. Zhou, J. Wang, J. Xia, Y. Guo, P. Zhao, Y. Dai, Design and Performance Analysis
of a Supercritical CO2 Radial Inflow Turbine, Applied Thermal Engineering (2019), doi:

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© 2019 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Design and Performance Analysis of a Supercritical CO2 Radial

Inflow Turbine
Kehan Zhou, Jiangfeng Wang*, Jiaxi Xia, Yumin Guo, Pan Zhao, Yiping Dai

Institute of Turbomachinery, State Key Laboratory of Multiphase Flow in Power Engineering,

School of Energy and Power Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, People’s

Republic of China

Due to the high efficiency and compactness, the supercritical carbon dioxide (S-
CO2) Brayton cycle recently emerged as a promising power cycle for the power plant
economics. The turbine is the key power unit of the cycle, but relevant investigations
are still lacking. In this paper, the design study of an S-CO2 radial inflow turbine
based on system optimization is conducted. The CFD simulation of the turbine under
design and off-design conditions is performed, and tip clearance analysis is conducted
to evaluate the turbine performance. The properties of CO2 in the CFD analysis are
calculated using the NIST database. Results show that the power output and total-to-
static efficiency of the turbine are 1.16 MW and 85.36%, respectively. The largest
deviation of design results and simulation results under the nominal condition is
3.73%, indicating that the design model is reliable. Numerical simulations reveal that
the turbine maintains great performance at design and off-design conditions.
Furthermore, tip clearance analysis shows that a 6% increase of tip clearance results
in a 3.84% reduction of turbine efficiency and a 4.16% reduction of turbine power

Keywords: Supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle; Radial inflow turbine; One-dimensional design;

CFD analysis

*Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 029-82668704; fax: +86 029-82668704.

E-mail address:

A area, mm2 θ cross section angle of volute, °

a correction factor φ nozzle velocity coefficient

b blade height, mm μ diameter ratio

c absolute velocity, ms-1 ψ rotor velocity coefficient

cp specific heat, kJkg-1 Ω degree of reaction

d diameter, mm Δh specific enthalpy drop, kJˑkg-1

f friction loss coefficient ΔT temperature difference, K

h enthalpy, kJkg-1 Subscripts

K angular momentum, kgms-1, loss 1-6 state points of the S-CO2 cycle,
coefficient state points in the S-CO2 turbine

l chord length, mm a actual enthalpy drop, axial

la axial length of rotor blade, mm c compressor, clearance

M loss coefficient, Mach number e exit state

m mass flow rate, kgˑs-1 f friction

N rotation speed, rpm g flue gas

P pressure, Mpa ga flue gas inlet,

Q heat load, kW gb flue gas outlet

r radius, mm h hub

R volute radius, mm i incidence

s entropy, kJˑkg-1 in input

t blade thickness m average value

tn span, mm n nozzle

T temperature, K net net value

u peripheral velocity, ms-1 out output

W power, kW p passage

w relative velocity, ms-1 r rotor, radial

xa velocity ratio rec recuperator

Z number of blades rel relative

Greek letters s isentropic state, shroud

α absolute flow angle, ° spc specific value

β relative flow angle, ° SCO2 supercritical CO2

η efficiency, % t turbine, trailing edge

ηu peripheral efficiency, % th thermal

ε effectiveness, % total total state

δ clearance, mm tur turbine

ρ density, kgm-3

1. Introduction
Environmental pollution, energy shortage and climate change caused by exploding
energy consumption have been threatening human society. The efficient utilization of
energy is the most urgent solution to alleviate these problems [1]. Among the efficient
energy conversion systems, supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle (known as S-
CO2 Brayton cycle) is considered as a promising option due to the high efficiency, the
compact structure and the simple layout [2]. Compared with the traditional helium
turbine, the S-CO2 turbine has a much smaller size and is able to produce comparable
power under lower temperature [3]. Many studies have investigated the application of
the S-CO2 Brayton cycle on nuclear energy [4], solar energy [5], fossil fuels [6], waste
heat recovery [7] and fuel cells [8].
Sulzer [9] proposed the simple S-CO2 Brayton cycle in 1950. To recover the turbine
exhaust heat, Feher [10] developed a regeneration S-CO2 Brayton cycle. Kato et al.
[11] investigated the S-CO2 partial condensation cycle for reducing the compression
work. Dostal et al. [3] completed the recompression S-CO2 Brayton cycle, which was
generally considered the most efficient layout of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle since then,
to solve the pinch point issue. Until now, many researchers have proposed and
compared different layouts of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle. In the work of Padilla et al.
[12], four different structures of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle in the concentrated solar
power application were investigated from the perspective of energy and exergy. They
concluded that the adding of intercooling to the recompression cycle is beneficial for
cycle performance improvement. Guo et al. [13] examined several S-CO2
recompression Brayton cycles and the dual expansion cycles to reduce the cycle
operating pressure and to improve thermal efficiency for nuclear power plants. They
demonstrated that the efficiency of the recompression cycle is the highest and the
recompression cycle with dual expansion could reduce the reactor pressure with little
expense of cycle efficiency. Bae et al. [8] conducted the study of the S-CO2 Brayton
cycle with different structures for a Fuel Cell application and announced that the S-
CO2 Brayton cycle had better performance than the air Brayton cycle when using as
the bottoming cycle of MCFC.
In addition, several studies have been conducted on S-CO2 Brayton cycles
combined with other cycles for the performance improvement. Besarati et al [5]
considered the combination of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle and the organic Rankine
cycle. They found that the simple S-CO2 Brayton cycle achieved the largest efficiency
increase while the recompression S-CO2/ORC cycle maintained the highest efficiency.
Cao et al. [7] proposed a cascade CO2 cycle to recover the waste heat of gas turbines.
The authors concluded that the proposed combined cycle had better thermal efficiency
than the conventional combined cycles. In the study of Yari et al [4], a transcritical S-
CO2 cycle was used to recover the waste heat of the S-CO2 cycle. Results showed that
the efficiency of the combined cycle was 5.5-26% higher than that of the simple S-
CO2 cycle, and the exergy destruction was 6.7–28.8% lower. Wang et al. [14]
examined two combined cycles in which a transcritical CO2 cycle and an ORC were

used for utilizing waste heat of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle, respectively. Key parameters
were studied for the performance comparison of two combined cycles.
The turbine is the key component of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle. Its performance
affects the cycle performance significantly. The advantages of the radial inflow
turbine are the more compact structure, the lower operation cost and the higher
reliability [15] compared with the axial turbine. Therefore, the radial inflow turbine is
widely used in the preliminary test loops of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle. Clementoni et
al. [16] constructed a 100-kWe S-CO2 Brayton cycle integrated system. Two radial
inflow turbines that drove the compressor and the generator respectively were
designed. And the startup operation of the cycle was tested. Utamura et al. [17] built a
test facility for an S-CO2 regenerative Brayton cycle. The designed rotation speed and
power output of the turbine were 100000 rpm and 10 kW, respectively, while a 110 W
power output at 69000 rpm was achieved due to the windage loss of the rotor. Most
experimental studies focused on the establishment and operation of S-CO2 Brayton
cycles, but little attention was paid to the specific component.
Currently, only a few studies have been conducted on the S-CO2 radial inflow
turbine. Cho et al. [18] developed a design code that could provide turbine geometry
parameters and performance curves of S-CO2 radial inflow turbines for the Sodium-
cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) application. Qi et al. [19] studied the possible design range
of S-CO2 radial inflow turbines with various design parameters. A conclusion has
arrived that within the power range of 100-200 kW, the turbine efficiency could
achieve 78–82%. Persky et al. [20] proposed a robust optimization method for a 30
MWe S-CO2 radial inflow turbine that generated power from solar resources. The
optimization and off-design performance of the turbine were studied.
Experimental research is costly, time-consuming, and may have security issues
while the CFD simulation provides a better understanding of the flow field improves
the design process and saves time and cost greatly [21]. A few researchers have
conducted the CFD simulation of the S-CO2 turbines. Zhang et al. [22] performed the
design and the CFD investigation of an S-CO2 radial inflow turbine. The turbine

efficiency was found to be 80.02% and strength evaluation was conducted. Recently,
Lv et al. [23] performed the one-dimensional design and the SQP optimization of an
S-CO2 radial inflow turbine. Optimized loss correlations were given and the CFD
simulation was conducted. Holaind et al. [24] studied the design of a radial inflow
turbine for a small-scale S-CO2 system. A simple CFD analysis was carried out. The
designed turbine met the efficiency requirement. Odabaee et al. [15] explored the
CFD simulations of S-CO2 radial inflow turbines using real gas equations and real gas
property (RGP) tables respectively. They found that the calculation using the RGP file
showed a better agreement with NIST database.
For most of the studies mentioned above, the thermodynamic design of the S-CO2
turbine is not combined with the S-CO2 cycle, which means that the input design
parameters of the turbine cannot ensure the optimal cycle performance. Besides that,
the S-CO2 turbine has much smaller dimensions due to the high density of
supercritical CO2 compared to the traditional steam or gas turbine. However, the
extremely small blade height in the S-CO2 turbine results in a much larger clearance
loss. Thus, it is of great importance to investigate the influence of tip clearance on the
S-CO2 turbine performance under small size conditions, which is seldom studied in
the previous research. Moreover, a Real Gas Property (RGP) file linking with NIST
database [25] is needed for an accurate description of the CO2 thermophysical
properties [26].
In this study, we conduct the thermodynamic optimization of an S-CO2 Brayton
cycle under the given heat source condition. The design and the CFD simulation of an
S-CO2 radial inflow turbine are carried out with the optimized thermodynamic input
parameters. The design accuracy is validated by the comparison between
thermodynamic design results and simulation results. Numerical simulation results
including velocity streamlines, temperature and pressure contours, Mach number
contours, limiting streamlines and blade loading profiles are studied to explore the
specific features of the small size turbine with high working fluid density. An RGP
file combining the NIST REFPROP database is encoded and employed in the

numerical analysis to cope with the dramatic variation of CO2 thermophysical
properties. Besides, performance analyses of the turbine under off-design conditions
are performed through the CFD method. Furthermore, we evaluate the variation of
turbine performance and flow field distribution as tip clearance increases by the CFD
simulation. Section streamlines and three-dimensional streamlines are analyzed
mutually to study the loss characteristics of small size turbines.

2. Thermodynamic optimization of the supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle

In this paper, the radial inflow turbine is designed for a simple regenerative S-CO2
Brayton cycle that utilizes exhaust heat of the gas turbine. Fig. 1 illustrates the
sketching of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle and the corresponding T-s diagram. Parameters
of each state point are based on the cycle optimization results. The supercritical CO2 is
cooled by the pre-cooler and flows to the compressor to be pressurized. Then the
compressed CO2 absorbs heat from the exhaust gas in the recuperator before passing
through the vapor generator and being heated by the heat source. Next, the CO2 exits
the vapor generator expanding through the S-CO2 turbine to generate power. The
exhaust CO2 then flows to the recuperator and transfers heat to the CO2 from the
compressor. Afterward, the exhaust gas is cooled by the pre-cooler and the cycle is
To optimize the S-CO2 Brayton cycle and obtain the initial design parameters of the
S-CO2 turbine, the mathematical model of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle is established.
The simulation of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle is conducted on the MATLAB platform.
The NIST database is used to calculate the CO2 thermophysical properties. For the
simplification of the system simulation, several assumptions are made as listed below:
(1) The operation of the system under steady state is maintained. The potential
energy, kinetic energy and the friction loss in the system are ignored.
(2) The system is adiabatic.
(3) The CO2 passing through the heat exchangers and pipes is isobaric.
(4) Isentropic efficiencies of the turbomachines are fixed.

The thermodynamic model of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle is developed based on
energy and exergy balances. The heat provided by flue gas in the vapor generator can
be given by

Tgb  T6  T (1)

Qin  mg (hga  hgb ) (2)

Thermodynamic relations for the recuperator [27] are given by

msco2 (h2  h3 )  msco2 (h6  h5 ) (3)

h2 -h3 h6 -h5
 rec =  (4)
h2 -h( p3 , T5 ) h2 -h( p3 , T5 )

In the pre-cooler, the heat rejected to the cooling medium can be obtained by

Qout  msco2 (h3  h4 ) (5)

Isentropic efficiency of the compressor and the turbine are given by

h5s -h4
c  (6)
h5 -h4

h1 -h2
t  (7)
h1 -h2 s

The output power of the turbine and the compressor power consumption can be
obtained by

Wc  msco2 (h5  h4 )  msco2 (h5s  h4 ) c (8)

Wt  msco2 (h1  h2 )  msco2t (h1  h2s ) (9)

The net power output and net specific work of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle can be
calculated by

Wnet  Wt  Wc (10)

Wspc  (11)

Then the cycle thermodynamic efficiency can be determined.

th  (12)

Ref. [28] presented the comparison of S-CO2 performances with different layouts
and different maximum pressures. A simple recuperative S-CO2 cycle was
investigated, and detailed operating parameters were provided. The validation of the
thermodynamic model of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle is performed based on the same
thermodynamic parameters, as shown in Table 1. The errors between results
calculated by the model presented in this paper and that of the references are within
2%, which may be caused by different ways of CO2 properties calculation.
To calculate the best operating parameters of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle and the S-
CO2 radial inflow turbine, the genetic algorithm (known as GA) is selected for the
thermodynamic optimization of the cycle. GA is an efficient optimization method
simulating the law of biological evolution, in which the probabilistic approach is used
to define the optimal searching range and realize global optimal solutions searching
[29]. The optimization objective of GA is the cycle net power output. The inlet
temperature of the compressor and turbine, the inlet pressure and the expansion ratio
of the turbine are selected as optimization variables. The calculation conditions of the
S-CO2 Brayton cycle are given in Table 2 [30, 31]. The range of S-CO2 Brayton cycle
optimization parameters and calculation conditions of GA are presented in Table 3
[32, 33] and Table 4 [29, 34], respectively.
Fig. 2 shows the convergence history of the thermodynamic optimization of the S-
CO2 Brayton cycle. The best Wnet is almost constant after the 15th generation and the
mean Wnet changes slightly after the 50th generation. The iteration converges at
generation 66, which is within the maximum iteration number. After the optimization,
the maximum output power under the given heat source condition is obtained. The
inner pinch of the recuperator under the optimized condition has been checked and the
temperature of the pinch point is 9.1 K. Table 5 gives the optimized key parameters of
the S-CO2 Brayton cycle. Then the initial design parameters of the S-CO2 turbine can
be determined.

3. Preliminary design of the S-CO2 radial inflow turbine
The main components of the radial inflow turbine are the volute, the nozzle and the
rotor. Fig. 3 presents the typical structure of a radial inflow turbine. During the typical
working process, the CO2 is first guided by the volute to flow uniformly
along the circumferential direction (1-2). Next, the CO2 passes through the nozzle (2-
3) with part of the internal energy transformed into kinetic energy, and then the CO2
leaving the nozzle mixes in the clearance before entering the rotor (3-4). After that the
CO2 continues to expand in the rotor (4-5), driving the rotor to generate power. The
corresponding h-s diagram is shown in Fig. 4. The relationship between the
absolute velocity, the relative velocity, and the peripheral velocity are given in
velocity triangles, as shown in Fig. 5.
The preliminary design of the single-stage S-CO2 radial inflow turbine is based on
the one-dimensional assumption and experience equations are used to estimate the
turbine loss. The optimized thermodynamic parameters are used as input parameters
of the turbine design, as Table 6 shows. The rotation speed of the turbine is selected
according to the typical range for radial inflow turbines provided in references [35,
36]. To ensure the structural strength of the turbine and to reduce the manufacturing
difficulty, a lower value of 40000 rpm is chosen for the turbine rotation speed. Fig. 6
depicts the flow chart of the one-dimensional design.
Before starting the iteration, the peripheral efficiency of the S-CO2 turbine should
be estimated at first [37],
 cos   1     2  2 x  cos  1     2 x 2 
u  2 xa  5 a 4 a
 (13)
 + cos 1      2 x 
 4 a 
where xa is the velocity ratio, Ω refers to the degree of reaction, μ is the diameter ratio,
α4 is the absolute flow angle of rotor inlet, β5 is the outlet relative flow angle of rotor,
ψ and φ are the velocity coefficient of the nozzle and the rotor, respectively. The
iteration process is carried out within the given range of the seven key design
parameters [37], as presented in Table 7. The process would be terminated when the

error between the calculated efficiency and the estimated efficiency is less than 1e-4.
Moreover, reasonable constraints (-10~5º) are set for the incidence angle to ensure
better performance and the flow condition of the turbine.
The calculations of thermodynamic parameters and velocity triangles are based on
Eq. (14)-(21). The degree of reaction Ω is defined as

hs ,25  h2,total  h5s (14)

 (15)

The isentropic expansion velocity and the actual specific enthalpy at rotor inlet can
be obtained by

cs = 2hs,2-5 (16)

h4  h2,total   2 (1  )hs ,25 (17)

The absolute velocity and relative velocity of rotor can be given as

c4   2(1  )hs ,25 (18)

w4  u42  c42  2u4c4 cos  4 (19)

w5   2hs,25  w42  (u42  u52 ) (20)

c5  w52  u52  2u5 w5 cos 5 (21)

The volute with circular section is adopted in this study. Fig. 7 (a) shows the overall
profile of the volute. Fig. 7 (b) is the schematic of a section of the volute, as shown by
the arrow. The outer edge radius of the section can be expressed as

 
R  R0  2(  2 R0 ) (22)

4 2 0 K
G (23)

The geometry parameters of the nozzle and the rotor are calculated using equation
(24)-(38). First, the number of rotor blades is estimated using Glassman empirical
correlation [38].


Zr  (20   4 ) tan 1  4 (24)

The radius and the blade thickness at rotor inlet and outlet can be obtained by

r4  u4 (25)
2 N

r5   r4 (26)

t4  0.03r4 (27)

t5  0.02r4 (28)

The blade heights at the inlet and outlet of the rotor can be expressed as

b4  (29)
2 r4  Z r t4

b5  (30)
2 r5  Z r t5

The rotor outlet radius at hub and shroud can be given as

r5h  r5  0.5b5 (31)

r5s  r5  0.5b5 (32)

The rotor axial length can be given by

la  1.5(r5s  r5h ) (33)

The geometry of the nozzle is determined based on the obtained geometry

parameters of the rotor. In the one-dimensional design, the nozzle height is a constant.
The equal blade heights are assumed for the nozzle outlet and the rotor inlet.

b3  b4 (34)

The chord length and the relative span of nozzle can be obtained by
tn  (35)
 d4
l (36)
Z n tn

The nozzle inlet radius and the nozzle outlet radius can be given by
r2  r42  (al )2  2alr4 sin n (37)

r3  r4 +2b4 sin  4 (38)

To estimate the turbine efficiency, seven losses are considered in the one-
dimensional model. The loss correlations are listed in Table 8 [39-43].

hr  hp  h f  ht  hi  hc (39)

htur  hn  hr +he (40)

The turbine efficiency can be determined by

ha,25 ha,25
tur   (41)
hs,25 ha,25  htur

The preliminary design of the turbine is performed following the above equations.
The design results including performance parameters, the flow angle and turbine
geometry parameters are presented in Table 9.

4. Numerical simulation
With the geometry parameters obtained in the preliminary design, the three-
dimensional geometry of the S-CO2 radial inflow turbine can be determined. The
three-dimensional modeling of the nozzle and the rotor are completed using ANSYS-
Bladegen. TC-2P is employed as the blade profile of the nozzle to achieve good
performance [37]. Then the model built with ANSYS-Bladegen can be imported into
ANSYS TurboGrid for mesh generation using the Automatic Topology and Meshing
(ATM) optimized topology. For the volute, the three-dimensional modeling is
conducted with PTC Creo software, and the gridding is finished with ANSYS ICEM.
Besides, mesh refinement is employed at the volute outlet and the adjacent section to
ensure the computing accuracy. The three-dimensional model of the turbine stage is
shown in Fig. 8.
The numerical simulation is performed using ANSYS-CFX software. To describe
the CO2 thermophysical properties more accurately, an RGP file is encoded with
REFPROP 9.1 and employed in the simulation. In CFX-Pre, k-ε turbulence model and
no-slip boundary condition are adopted. The two sides of the blade are defined as
periodic boundaries and the intersection between the nozzle and the rotor is set to be
the frozen rotor. In addition, a high resolution difference scheme and an auto
timescale are employed for the calculation. The convergent limit of the residual is set
as 10-4.
Table 10 and Table 11 provide the grid-independent analysis that comprises several
groups of candidate grid numbers and simulation results. For the nozzle and the rotor,
the differences between the calculation results of the last four groups are very small.
For the volute, the difference becomes very little after group 3. Therefore, for the
comprehensive consideration of improving calculation accuracy and saving
computing resources, the grid number of the volute, the nozzle, and the rotor take
2816584, 497016 and 486603, respectively. The final mesh qualities of the three
components are shown in Table 12. The results of mesh generation for the three
components are shown in Fig. 9.
Since detailed experimental data of the S-CO2 turbine is still lacking, the model is
validated with the existing experimental results [44]. As the nozzle blade profile and
the volute geometry are not provided in the reference, different nozzle blade profiles
are adopted in the simulation and the volute is not simulated. The other geometry
parameters are kept the same as those in the reference. The thermodynamic
parameters are based on the data of three test points. As can be seen in Table 13, the
maximum error of the turbine outlet temperature, total pressure, and enthalpy drop are
1.15%, 3.53%, and -5.69%, respectively. The errors might be caused by different
nozzle blade profiles and the absence of the volute. Different nozzle blade profiles
may lead to different turbine performances. Besides, due to the heat loss and the
friction in the volute, the temperature and pressure at the nozzle inlet are lower than
those of the volute inlet are. According to Table 17, the volute can cause about 2% of
pressure and efficiency loss. Considering these, the design method can be considered
With the specified grid numbers of the component obtained, the three-dimensional

simulation of the designed turbine can be conducted. In this paper, four simulations of
the turbine are performed, namely the turbine with and without volute, the turbine
with different tip clearances, and the turbine under off-design conditions. In the one-
dimensional design, the loss of volute is not considered since a well-designed volute
will not cause great loss. Besides, the simulation of the turbine with volute requires
huge computational resources. To verify the design of the nozzle and rotor and save
computing time, the turbine without volute is firstly simulated and compared with the
one-dimensional design results. After the satisfied results are obtained, the volute is
added to the turbine to achieve a more realistic simulation. Then the tip clearance
analysis is conducted and off-design performances of the turbine are investigated.

5. Results of CFD analysis

5.1. Simulation results of the turbine without volute
The calculation conditions of the simulation are presented in Table 14 and the
details of turbine geometry are given in Table 15. The total temperature at the nozzle
inlet, CO2 mass flow rate and the average pressure at the rotor outlet are 673.15 K,
12.74 kgˑs-1 and 7.63 MPa, respectively according to the preliminary design results.
The rotation speed of the rotor is set as 40000 rpm. The comparison between one-
dimensional design value and numerical simulation results without volute is
conducted, as shown in Table 16. It can be concluded that good agreement is achieved
since the errors of different parameters are within 4%, which indicates that the
designed turbine is effective and meets the accuracy requirements.
The streamlines in the nozzle and rotor are shown in Fig. 10. Following the
designed process, the CO2 first accelerates in the nozzle and reaches maximum
velocity at the nozzle throat, and then the CO2 continues to expand in the rotor. It can
be observed that the streamlines are well distributed align the rotor blade geometry,
showing that the design of the turbine geometry and the operation parameters are
matched. Therefore, steady operation at a nominal state can be achieved. In the CFD
simulation without volute, the flow condition in each flow passage is the same.

Fig. 11 presents the velocity vectors at varying spans of the turbine. Since the
structure of the nozzle flow passage is simple, the velocity vectors distribute smoothly
in accordance with the profile of the nozzle blade from the hub surface to the shroud
surface. From the blade leading edge, the velocity of CO2 increases gradually and
obvious flow acceleration can be observed near the nozzle trailing edge. For the rotor,
the flow condition is rather complex, especially in the middle of the blade suction
side, where flow separation occurred due to the obstruction of the blade and the
adverse pressure gradient. Meanwhile, for three different spans, the flow on the
pressure side is smooth. As the span increases, the low-pressure area near the suction
side decreases and the overall flow condition in the rotor passage is improved.
As Fig. 12 shows, the static pressure contours of the turbine are similar at different
spans. Along the flow passage of the turbine, the static pressure gradually decreases
from 18.46 MPa to 6.61 MPa. For the nozzle, pressure drops smoothly in the first half
of the flow passage, and a fluctuation occurs on the suction surface near the nozzle
throat due to the influence of the boundary layer. In the rotor, the rate of pressure drop
reduces gradually and the pressure changes slightly near the trailing edge, revealing
that the strong working capacity of the rotor can be ensured since the profile of the
rotor blade is well designed. As there is a shock at the rotor leading edge, a tiny low-
pressure area is formed, which leads to a local acceleration of the fluid.
The temperature contours of the turbine at different spans are presented in Fig. 13.
As can be seen, the temperature decreases from 669.5 K at the nozzle inlet to 567.6 K
at the rotor outlet. Rapid change of temperature is observed at the nozzle throat on the
suction side and a local low temperature area can be noticed on the rotor suction
surface as a result of the flow turbulence. Near the outlet region of the rotor, the rate
of temperature variation reduces and the maximun range of low-temperature region is
reached at the 50% span. Besides, a localized low-temperature area is formed near the
outlet region of rotor blade due to the influence of blade thickness. In addition, as the
span rises, the minimum temperature in the flow passage decreases.
Fig. 14 shows the blade-to-blade Mach number distributions of the turbine at

different blade heights. The Mach number first rises smoothly in the nozzle passage
and then changes greatly near the throat. The largest Mach number is 0.9981 and is
reached at the nozzle outlet, which means that the flow in the turbine is subsonic and
the chosen nozzle blade profile is appropriate [37]. A low Mach number area is
located on the rotor suction surface where the minimum Mach number is reached. As
the span increases, the area of low Mach number region increases, which is in
accord with the low-velocity area as shown in Fig. 11. At the trailing edge of rotor
blades, the CO2 at high speed is obstructed due to the blade thickness. As a result, a
vortex is generated and the Mach number near the trailing edge is relatively low.
The blade loading of the nozzle and rotor at different spans are demonstrated in
Fig. 15. Because the nozzle blade is straight and the flow in the nozzle passage is
homogeneous without flow separation, the pressure distribution along the nozzle
blade is nearly the same at different spans. On the pressure side, the blade loading
changes slightly at the inlet region and decreases smoothly near the outlet region.
Whereas abrupt pressure change appears on the nozzle suction side near the trailing
edge as a result of boundary layer development.
For the rotor, the CO2 expands along the flow direction as the pressure decreases. It
is illustrated in Fig. 15 that the pressure decreases more gently along with the rotor
blades compared with that along with the nozzle blades. The pressure difference of
the suction side and the pressure side at the rotor outlet increases as the span rises.
Furthermore, the maximum pressure difference occurs at the inlet of the rotor and
decreases along the flow direction, showing that the working capacity of the designed
rotor is satisfactory. Besides, an adverse pressure gradient is observed near the rotor
outlet region and it may lead to flow separation.
The limiting streamlines on the rotor blade surfaces are illustrated in Fig. 16. A
reattachment line appears on the pressure side near the lower end wall and a
separation line occurs near the middle of the suction side because of the flow
separation. With the influence of the radial pressure gradient and circumferential
Coriolis force, vortices could be formed near the rotor inlet area, which leads to the

local pressure drop.
For a single rotor passage, the limiting streamlines of the hub surface and shroud
surface are shown in Fig. 17. Affected by the centrifugal force and Coriolis force,
separation of flow occurs in the middle of flow passage and vortices can be observed
on the hub surface. As the span increases, flow uniformity improves and streamlines
are well distributed align the blade profile on the shroud surface.

5.2. Simulation results of the turbine with volute

The previous analysis is based on the numerical simulation with the nozzle and
rotor. As the satisfied results have been obtained as discussed in Table 16, the volute
can then be added to the simulation. In practical situations, a volute is needed to guide
the CO2 before it enters the nozzle, and therefore the flow conditions at the nozzle
inlet are different from the case discussed above. To realize more detailed and
practical analysis, full calculation of the turbine consisting of the volute, nozzle, and
rotor is carried out and similar boundary conditions are given for the simulation. The
total temperature and CO2 mass flow rate at the volute inlet are 673.15 K and 12.74
kgˑs-1, respectively. The average pressure at the rotor outlet is 7.63 MPa and a frozen
rotor is selected for the data transformation between the nozzle and rotor. Comparison
of simulation results is given in Table 17. With the volute added to the simulation, the
total pressure at the turbine inlet and the total-to-static efficiency of the turbine
decrease by 2.16% and 1.95%, respectively.
Fig. 18 illustrates the full simulation streamlines of the turbine. In the volute, the
flow direction of the CO2 follows the volute profile. The peripheral velocity
distributes uniformly, showing that the design of the volute is reasonable and
effective. Then the CO2 enters the nozzle with a certain incidence angle and part of
the CO2 deflects due to the shock on the nozzle blade while the majority of CO2 flows
into the nozzle smoothly. Most of the streamlines in the rotor distribute following the
flow passage while few vortices are present near the inlet region of the rotor blade
since the flow is blocked by the rotor blade. Unlike the simulation without volute, the

flow condition in each flow passage is different, which is closer to the actual
operation process.
The pressure and temperature contours of a full simulation are given in Fig. 19. It
can be seen that the pressure and temperature distribute regularly throughout the
turbine and are different in each flow passage. Little fluctuation occurs at the nozzle
throat and the middle of the rotor suction side. The pressure and temperature change
very little in the volute, which demonstrates that the volute plays a role in guiding the
CO2 as expected. For the nozzle and rotor, the pressure and temperature generally
decrease along the flow direction despite some deviations between the pressure side
and suction side. The overall variation trend of the pressure and temperature are
consistent with the condition without the volute, proving the effectiveness of the
volute. Since the variations of the Mach number on the turbine surface are little and
hard to observe, the Mach number distribution on a slice of the turbine is shown in
Fig. 20. In the volute, the Mach number almost keeps unchanged. The maximum
Mach number appears near the nozzle throat, and the flow through the turbine is
subsonic. In some regions in the rotor where the flow velocity is rather low, the low
Mach number area appears accordingly.

5.3. Tip clearance analysis

As shown in Fig. 21, there is always a clearance between the shroud surface and the
rotor blades in practical use. The large clearance leakage diminishes the turbine
performance significantly. In this section, the performance of turbines with 2%, 4%,
6%, and 8% dimensionless tip clearance are examined. The numerical simulations are
conducted following the steps introduced in section 4 and the same boundary
conditions are given. The total temperature and CO2 mass flow rate at the nozzle inlet
are 673.15 K and 12.74 kgˑs-1, respectively. The average pressure at the rotor outlet is
7.63 MPa.
The cross-section streamlines of turbines with different tip clearance at 1.5
streamwise are demonstrated in Fig. 22. Owing to the existence of the pressure

gradient and tip clearances, two vortices are formed on the rotor suction surface.
Under the 2 % tip clearance condition, the area of vortices and the distances between
vortices and the suction surface are small. As tip clearance increases, the leakage flow
from the pressure side to suction side is enhanced and the pressure difference on the
cross-section increases. Consequently, the vortex core of the leakage vortex is
gradually pushed away from the suction surface and the vortex area increases. For the
8% tip clearance condition, the area that the vortices take up increases obviously and
the main stream is significantly obstructed by the leakage flow. Fig. 23 presents the
three-dimensional clearance streamlines of turbines with different tip clearance.
Obvious leakage flow and vortices can be observed. As tip clearance increases, the
flow passage area occupied by the leakage flow increases, revealing that the deviation
of the main flow grows and larger efficiency degradation will be caused.
Table 18 gives the variation of turbine performance parameters with different tip
clearance. As shown in Fig. 22 and Fig. 23, as the dimensionless tip clearance
increases from 2% to 8%, the flow rate and intensity of the leakage flow increase. The
mainstream deflects due to the vortices caused by leakage flow, which means that the
blades cannot guide the flow direction correctly. Therefore, losses in the turbine
increase significantly. As the dimensionless tip clearance increases by 6%, the turbine
efficiency decreases by 3.84% relatively, power output decreases by 49.54 kW, or

5.4 Turbine off-design performances

For a more detailed analysis of the performance of the designed turbine, the off-
design performances based on CFD simulation are investigated with different rotation
speeds, expansion ratios, and inlet temperatures. The other calculation conditions are
kept the same as presented in section 4. As demonstrated in Fig. 24 (a) and (b), as the
turbine rotation speed increases from 80% to 120% nominal value, the turbine power
output and total-to-total efficiency both increase first and then decrease. As the
turbine inlet temperature increases, the rotation speed of the maximum power output

moves towards higher rotation speeds, while the rotation speed of the highest
efficiency moves towards lower rotation speeds. Besides, the rotation speed of the
highest efficiency is slightly higher than the nominal rotation speed.
It can be observed from Fig. 24 (c) that the power output of the turbine increases
with the expansion ratio. At a higher expansion ratio, the turbine with higher rotation
speeds maintains larger power output. As Fig. 24 (d) shows, the expansion ratio with
the highest efficiency is slightly lower than the nominal point. The maximum
variation of efficiency at the nominal rotation speed is 2.58%. At low rotation speed,
the turbine efficiency decreases significantly.
As presented in Fig. 24 (e) and (f), the turbine power output increases with the inlet
temperature. The points at nominal rotation speed maintain the maximum power
output. The turbine efficiencies decrease with the inlet temperature at nominal and
lower rotation speeds, and increase with the inlet temperature at a higher rotation
speed. The maximum variation of turbine efficiency at the nominal rotation speed is
The nominal operation parameters are selected to ensure the maximum net power
output of the S-CO2 cycle. The off-design analysis shows that the designed turbine
can effectively handle the variations of the rotation speed, the expansion ratio, and the
inlet temperature.

6. Conclusion
This paper presents the thermodynamic optimization of an S-CO2 Brayton cycle
under the given heat source condition and conducts the preliminary design of an S-
CO2 radial inflow turbine utilizing the optimized thermodynamic parameters. An RGP
file is encoded to describe the properties of CO2 accurately in CFD simulation. Then
the CFD analysis of the turbine at design and off-design conditions is performed for a
more detailed evaluation of turbine function. Furthermore, the influence of tip
clearance on the turbine performance is investigated. The main outcomes are given

(1) The CFD simulation based on the one-dimensional design reveals that the total-
to-static efficiency of the designed turbine can reach 82.53%. The deviation of
preliminary design results and simulation results are in a reasonable range, indicating
that the design method is reliable.
(2) Detailed analysis shows that the turbine performs well under the design
condition. At off-design conditions, the turbine can effectively handle the variation of
(3) With the increase of tip clearance, the power output and efficiency of the turbine
decreases and the flow condition in the turbine gets worse.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support by the National Natural
Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51976147) and K. C. Wong Education

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Table 1
Model validation for the S-CO2 Brayton cycle using the data reported by Reference [28].
T(K) T(K) h/ kJkg-1 h/ kJkg-1
State point P (MPa) Error Error
Ref. [28] Present Ref. [28] Present
(%) (%)
1 18.1 728.15 728.15 0.00 922.22 919.92 -0.25
2 7.5 625.69 634.26 1.37 815.06 823.37 0.10
3 7.5 357.03 364.18 2.00 501.22 511.83 0.21
4 7.4 304.15 304.15 0.00 312.78 311.63 -0.04
5 18.3 334.65 334.17 -0.14 330.89 332.43 0.47
6 18.2 504.19 503.75 -0.09 644.73 643.97 -0.12

Table 2
Calculation condition of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle [30, 31].
Parameter Value
Flue gas inlet temperature (K) 792.15
Flue gas pressure (MPa) 0.12
Flue gas mass flow rate (kgs-1) 9
Efficiency of recuperator (%) 95
Isentropic efficiency of turbine (%) 80
Isentropic efficiency of compressor (%) 80
Inlet temperature difference of vapor generator (K) 15
Ambient temperature (K) 293.15
Ambient Pressure (MPa) 0.1

Table 3
Parameters range of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle optimization [32, 33].
Parameter Range
Compressor inlet temperature (K) 305.15-313.15
Turbine inlet pressure (MPa) 16-20
Turbine inlet temperature (K) 673.15-773.15
Expansion ratio 2-3

Table 4
GA calculation conditions [29, 34].
Parameter Value
Number of population 50
Maximum iteration number 300
Crossover probability 0.8
Mutation probability 0.05

Table 5
Thermodynamic optimization results of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle.
Parameter Value
Thermal efficiency (%) 26.88
Net power output (kW) 804.95
Power output of turbine (kW) 1089.79
Net specific work (kJˑkg-1) 63.16
CO2 mass flow rate (kgˑs-1) 12.74
Turbine inlet pressure (kPa) 19309.92
Turbine inlet temperature (K) 673.15
Expansion ratio 2.53
Compressor inlet temperature (K) 305.15

Table 6
Input design parameters of the S-CO2 turbine.
Turbine operating parameter Value
Turbine inlet temperature T2 (K) 673.15
Turbine inlet pressure P2 (kPa) 19309.92
Turbine exit pressure P5 (MPa) 7632.38
Mass flow rate mCO2 (kg·s-1) 12.74
Rotation speed N (rpm) 40000

Table 7
Design parameters of the S-CO2 turbine [37].
Parameter α4 β5 φ ψ xa Ω μ
Range 14-17° 35-55° 0.90-0.97 0.8-0.9 0.6-0.7 0.4-0.55 0.35-0.5

Table 8
Loss correlations of the S-CO2 turbine.
Loss Loss correlation
Nozzle loss (Δhn) [39]
hn  (1   2 )(1  )hs,25

Incidence loss (Δhi) [40] w42 sin 2  i

hi 
Rotor passage loss (Δhp) [40] w42 cos 2  i  w52
hp  K p ( )
Disk friction loss (Δhf) [41]
 m u43 r42
hf  f r
2mCO w52 2

Trailing loss (Δht) [42]

2 P4-5,rel
ht 
 M 52,rel P5,rel

Clearance loss (Δhc) [43] u43 Z r

hc  ( K a  a ca  K r r cr  K ar  a  r ca cr )
Exit loss (Δhe) c52
he 

Table 9
Design results of the S-CO2 turbine.
Parameter Symbol Value
Degree of reaction Ω 0.44
Diameter ratio μ 0.35
Velocity ratio xa 0.66
Nozzle velocity coefficient φ 0.92
Rotor velocity coefficient ψ 0.8
Rotor inlet absolute flow angle (º) α4 17
Rotor inlet relative flow angle (º) β4 90.46
Rotor outlet absolute flow angle (º) α5 102.19
Rotor outlet relative flow angle (º) β5 38
Number of nozzle blades Zs 19
Nozzle installation angle (º) αs 29
Nozzle inlet radius (mm) r2 95.09
Nozzle outlet radius (mm) r3 74.67
Nozzle blade height (mm) b2 3.12
Number of rotor blades Zr 12
Rotor inlet radius (mm) r4 72.85
Hub radius at rotor outlet (mm) r5h 15.61
Shroud radius at rotor outlet (mm) r5s 35.39
Blade height at rotor inlet (mm) b4 3.12
Blade height at rotor outlet (mm) b5 19.78

Power output of turbine(kW) Wt 1162.49
Turbine efficiency (%) ηtur 85.36

Table 10
Grid independent analysis of the volute.
Group Grid Number Nozzle inlet pressure (kPa) Nozzle inlet temperature(K)
1 1021765 18351.74 673.14
2 1989376 18342.25 672.16
3 2816584 18319.26 672.15
4 3795642 18318.97 672.14
5 5261028 18318.85 672.14

Table 11
Grid independent analysis of the nozzle and rotor.
Group Nozzle Rotor Turbine inlet Turbine power
Grid Number y+ Grid Number y+ pressure output (kW)
1 193312 32.67 193452 32.86 18715.1 1208.65
2 299424 22.51 289248 29.57 18705.7 1204.41
3 384768 18.48 388692 23.64 18690.1 1203.08
4 497016 12.71 486603 18.70 18692.2 1205.88
5 586546 12.11 58716 14.83 18692.4 1205.35
6 680991 8.40 685678 15.23 18691.9 1204.97
7 781020 8.46 771030 12.22 18692.5 1205.56

Table 12
Final mesh quality of the three components.
Component Grid number Evaluation criteria Value
Volute 2816584 Maximum skewwness 0.9996
Average skewwness 0.7580
Maximum aspect ratio 12.0434
Average aspect ratio 4.2028
Nozzle 497016 Minimum volume (m3) 5.64×10-15
Maximum face angle (º) 126.85
Minimum face angle (º) 43.33
Maximum edge length ratio 104.66
Rotor 486603 Minimum volume (m3) 1.37×10-14
Maximum face angle (º) 151.90
Minimum face angle (º) 28.09
Maximum edge length ratio 151.78

Table 13
Validation of the simulation model with experimental results [44].
Parameter Test point 1 Test point 2 Test point 3
Boundary conditions
CO2 mass flow rate (kgˑs-1) 0.9734 1.631 1.630
Turbine inlet total pressure (kPa) 8284 9125 9365
Turbine inlet total temperature (ºC) 146.3 146.5 202.0
Rotation speed (rpm) 25000 35069 39140
Test data
Turbine outlet total Experiment 137.9 130.1 182.1
temperature (ºC) Simulation 139.4 131.6 183.9
Error (%) 1.09 1.15 0.99

Turbine outlet total Experiment 7606 7584 7584

pressure (kPa) Simulation 7870 7803 7852
Error (%) 3.47 2.89 3.53

Enthalpy drop Experiment 6.45 11.56 16.12

(kJ/kg) Simulation 6.08 11.01 15.22

Error (%) -5.69 -4.82 -5.56

Table 14
Detailed calculation condition of the CFD simulation.
Data type Detail
Turbine stage / Single stage
Model data Reference pressure 0 kPa
Heat transfer Total energy
Turbulence k-epsilon
Inflow T-Total 673.15 K
Mass flow rate 12.74 kgˑs-1
Flow direction Normal to boundary
Outflow P-static 7632.38 kPa
Interface / Frozen rotor

Table 15
Geometry details of the turbine model.
Component Boundary Boundary type Boundary details
S1(stator) R1 to S1 Side 2 Interface Conservative interface flux
S1 Blade Wall No slip wall;
Smooth wall;
S1 Hub Wall No slip wall;
Smooth wall;
S1 Inlet Inlet mCO2=12.74 kgˑs-1
TTotal=673.15 K
S1 Shroud Wall No slip wall;
Smooth wall;
S1 to S1 Periodic Side 1 Interface Conservative interface flux
S1 to S1 Periodic Side 2 Interface Conservative interface flux
R1(rotor) R1 to S1 Side 1 Interface Conservative interface flux
R1 Blade Wall No slip wall;
Smooth wall;
R1 Hub Wall No slip wall;
Smooth wall;
R1 Outlet Inlet PStatic =7632.38 kPa
R1 Shroud Wall No slip wall;
Smooth wall;
R1 to R1 Periodic Side 1 Interface Conservative interface flux
R1 to R1 Periodic Side 2 Interface Conservative interface flux

Table 16
Comparison of one-dimensional design value and numerical simulation results without volute.
Parameter One-dimensional Numerical Deviation (%)
design value simulation result
Performance parameter
Total-to-static efficiency (%) 85.36 82.53 -3.32
Power output of turbine (kW) 1162.49 1205.88 3.73
CO2 mass flow rate (kgˑs-1) 12.74 12.41 -2.59
Turbine inlet total pressure (kPa) 19309.92 18692.20 -3.20

Table 17
Three-dimensional simulation results of the turbines with and without volute.
Parameter With volute Without volute Deviation (%)
Performance parameters
Total-to-static efficiency (%) 80.75 82.53 -2.16
Power output (kW) 1193.91 1205.88 -0.99
Nozzle inlet total pressure (kPa) 18327.25 18692.20 -1.95
Boundary condition
CO2 mass flow rate (kgˑs-1) 12.68 12.41 /
Turbine inlet total temperature (K) 672.16 673.15 /
Turbine outlet static pressure (kPa) 7632.67 7633.09 /

Table 18
Performance parameters of the turbine with different tip clearance.
Dimensionless tip Total-to-total isentropic Power output (kW) CO2 mass flow rate
clearance (%) efficiency (%) (kgˑs-1)
2 91.44 1190.69 12.67
4 89.77 1171.57 12.65
6 88.82 1157.18 12.59
8 87.93 1141.15 12.51

(a) Schematic diagram (b) T-s diagram

Fig. 1. A simple recuperative S-CO2 Brayton cycle (Optimized condition)



760 Best Wnet

Mean Wnet
Wnet (kW)





0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

Fig. 2. Convergence history of the S-CO2 Brayton cycle thermodynamic optimization

Fig. 3. Schematic diagram of the turbine cross section

Fig. 4. Enthalpy-entropy diagram of the turbine expansion process

Fig. 5. Velocity triangle of the turbine stage

Fig. 6. Flow chart of the turbine one-dimensional design

Fig. 7. Schematic of volute

Fig. 8. Overall structure of the turbine

(a) Volute

(b) Single passage of nozzle (c) Single passage of rotor
Fig. 9. Computational grid of the components

Fig. 10. Streamlines of the turbine without volute

(a) 20% span

(b) 50% span

(c) 80% span

Fig. 11. Velocity vectors of the turbine at different spans

(a) 20% span

(b) 50% span

(c) 80% span
Fig. 12. Static pressure contours of the turbine at different spans

(a) 20% span

(b) 50% span

(c) 80% span

Fig. 13. Temperature contours of the turbine at different spans

(a) 20% span

(b) 50% span

(c) 80% span

Fig. 14. Mach number contours of the turbine at different spans

(a) Nozzle blade

(b) Rotor blade
Fig. 15. Static pressure distribution of the turbine at different spans

(a) Pressure side (b) Suction side

Fig. 16. Limiting streamlines of the rotor blade

(a) Hub surface (b) Shroud surface

Fig. 17. Limiting streamlines of the rotor end walls

Fig. 18. Full simulation streamline of the turbine


Fig. 19. Pressure and temperature contours of full simulation

Fig. 20. Mach number distribution of the turbine cross section

Fig. 21. Schematic of the turbine tip clearance

(a) 2% tip clearance

(b) 4% tip clearance

(c) 6% tip clearance

(d) 8% tip clearance

Fig. 22. Cross section streamlines of turbines with different tip clearance at 1.5 streamwise

(a) 2% tip clearance (a) 4% tip clearance

(a) 6% tip clearance (a) 8% tip clearance

Fig. 23. Clearance streamlines of turbines with different tip clearance

(a) Variation of turbine power with the (b) Variation of turbine total-to-total efficiency
rotation speed at different inlet temperature with the rotation speed at different inlet

(c) Variation of turbine power with the (d) Variation of turbine total-to-total efficiency
expansion ratio at different rotation speed with the expansion ratio at different rotation

(e) Variation of turbine power with the inlet (f) Variation of turbine total-to-total efficiency
temperature at different rotation speed with the inlet temperature at different rotation
Fig. 24 Variation of the turbine performance parameters under off-design condition

 Optimization of the S-CO2 cycle and design of the S-CO2 turbine are conducted.

 Comprehensive CFD simulation and analysis for the turbine are performed.

 Off-design analysis is carried out to evaluate the turbine performances.

 Tip clearance analysis is conducted to study the tip leakage characteristics.

Author statement
Kehan Zhou: Conceptualization, Methodology, Software, Formal analysis,
Investigation, Writing - Original Draft, Writing - Review & Editing
Jiangfeng Wang: Conceptualization, Supervision, Project administration, Funding
Jiaxi Xia: Resources, Investigation, Writing - Review & Editing
Yuming Guo: Data Curation, Visualization
Pan Zhao: Supervision, Project administration
Yiping Dai: Supervision, Project administration

Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest to this work. There is no
commercial or associative interest that represents a conflict of interest in connection
with the work submitted.