The real trouble with microturbines is the nomenclature. Yes, there are other troubles to be sure. However, nobody out there seems to know their micro from their macro, and it has caused a lot of confusion. Its almost as bad as naming a 3.5-inch X 1.6-inch MP3 player the Nano.
The first few hits I get by typing “microturbine” into Google are Capstone, Ingersoll-Rand, and Elliott. The distributed energy and back-up power industries recognize the companies I’ve listed as microturbine manufacturers, but to a purist, there is not a single microturbine maker in the lot. Certainly these companies make small, terrestrial gas turbines, offspring of aerospace power plants. However, aside from being small in size and power output compared to conventional jet engines, there is nothing micro about them. Following the metric prefix index, perhaps we would all be less confused by the moniker deci-turbines to denote the characteristic turbine dimensions of roughly 10 centimeters to 1 meter.
Another micro prefix offender is the research team led by Professor Allen Epstein at MIT, working on tiny silicon-based gas turbines. This work, called the MIT Microengine Project, was recently featured in a Mechanical Engineering Magazine article, “The Little Engine”. These tiny energy generators are slated to compete against battery technology for portable electronics and personal power applications. While these gas turbines are certainly much smaller than their aero-derivative terrestrial cousins, they still aren’t microturbines. Perhaps the term milli-turbine would be preferable, given the rotor diameter of roughly five millimeters.
In my opinion, true microturbines would be power-generating systems that employ gas turbine principles at micrometer length scales. I know of no practical system that meets this requirement. On the contrary, just about every gas turbine out there smaller than a refrigerator that isn’t pushing around an airplane seems to be called a microturbine… No, I stand corrected; apparently micro turbines propel planes, too. Advanced Micro Turbines (AMT) makes small engines that drive RC aircraft, and (as you might have guessed by now) AMT calls their products “microtuburines”!
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.