Want to know what a combined cycle is? There are plenty of information online, but things can get a bit confusing as soon as you scratch the surface of such a complex field as thermodynamics. That’s why we did our best to explain it in the simplest possible way!
In short, a combined cycle is a group of individual heat engines that work from the same heat source. Just like with any other engine of their kind, their main purpose is to convert heat into mechanical energy, which is then converted into electrical energy. But why combine more of them into the so-called combined cycle? Why not let them work individually instead?
The reason behind combining individual heat engines is the optimization of efficiency (the overall efficiency of any system is increased in average up to 60%). When it comes to generating energy, any loss of it that happens along the way is considered to be a mistake in the system. Of course, we still can’t avoid it altogether, but at least we’re trying to reduce it to the bare minimum. As it turns out, combining two cycles gives us better results. This doesn’t just mean that we get more power with less work, it also means we reduce the cost of getting the power in the first place. And that’s why we do it. But where are combined cycles used?
Combined cycles can usually be found in power plants of a bigger scale. That’s mostly because they generate a lot of energy and need to cut down on their costs as much as possible to optimize their performance.
But there have been a lot of suggestions concerning other potential applications. BMW, for instance, starts using them in cars: their idea involves steam turbines that would be powered by exhaust gases.
Even in aircraft, there are practical applications thanks to the turbo-compound engine, which primary purpose is adding more power to the plane’s engine.
All things considered, it seems safe to say we’ll be hearing more and more about combined cycles!
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