Renewable energy sources, such as solar-thermal or geothermal heat, and low-/medium-grade industrial waste-heat can be converted into useful power and/or heating with a variety of technologies, including organic Rankine cycle (ORC) and vapour-compression heat-pump systems. The thermodynamic performance and cost of these technologies depends crucially on the efficiency of key components, including the compressor or expander used. Reciprocating-piston machines can be advantageous over turbomachines and other positive-displacement machines at intermediate scales (~10s-100s of kW) thanks to their ability to operate with relatively high isentropic efficiencies at large expansion ratios. However, modelling the thermodynamic losses in reciprocating-piston expanders, with a view towards designing high-performance machines, is a complex undertaking. The aim of this paper is to develop a spatially-lumped, yet dynamic model of a piston expander suitable for early-stage engineering design, that can provide simplification without sacrificing accuracy. The unsteady heat transfer between the gas and the cylinder walls, and the mass leakage are predicted independently with correlations available in the literature and simplified one-dimensional models, respectively. However, the turbulence induced by the mass intake through the piston rings can affect the gas-to-wall heat transfer. In order to address this dependency two complementary approaches are used. Compression and expansion processes are simulated in a gas spring configuration (i.e. without valve systems) using a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model developed using the open-source code OpenFOAM, where the loss mechanisms are solved directly. The results are then compared with predictions from the heuristic lumped model based on heat transfer correlations. Finally, the lumped model is used to derive performance maps for a reciprocating-piston expander over a range of pressure ratios and mass flow rates.
Papers presented at the 13th International Conference on Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics, Portoroz, Slovenia on 17-19 July 2017 .