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Experimental study of an oil-free steam piston expander for micro-combined heat and power systems

Bouvier, Jean-Louis, Lemort, Vincent, Michaux, Ghislain, Salagnac, Patrick, Kientz, Thiebaut
Applied energy 2016 v.169 pp. 788-798
electric power, empirical models, heat, steam, temperature
This paper presents an experimental study conducted on an oil-free steam piston expander for micro-combined heat and power systems. This expander can produce electrical power (between 740 and 2400W) with a significant range of supply temperature (between 260 and 340°C) and pressure (between 20 and 34bar). The expander electrical power output exhibits a fast dynamic response to a change of working or supply fluid conditions. The reached expander overall isentropic efficiency (including electrical generator efficiency) was between 19% and 40%.An empirical model has been developed in order to conduct a sensitivity analysis of the system by varying working variables such as supply and exhaust pressures, rotational speed and supply temperature. The parameters of this model have been identified using experimental results. The sensitivity analysis showed a limited increase of the electrical power output with a rotational speed until 900rpm and a reduction of the power output for values beyond 900rpm. It also highlighted the significant positive impact of the supply pressure on the electrical power output and the negative impact of the superheating on the expander overall isentropic efficiency.The obtained results are useful for the future control of the expander integrated into a Rankine cycle.Since the fluid at the expander exhaust is steam at a pressure close to 1 bar, it is possible to produce heat at a temperature close to 80°C, which is sufficient for most domestic applications (heating or direct hot water production).