The gas turbine has attained commercial significance as a competitive prime mover only in recent years. Few other mechanisms have had as much time and effort devoted to their development, and with such limited success prior to the present combustion type. Apparently misled by its simplicity, countless inventors have experienced repeated failures in their attempt to achieve a successful machine. It is logical to inquire why a practical design was not evolved during these hundreds of years of experimentation. The plaything of Hero, Newton, comic strip artists, dreamers, jet propulsion enthusiasts, and many sane, capable engineers, has only recently reached its present stage of development. Only a handful of industrial gas turbines are now in service, and the principles of operation are not widely known

The successful development of the gas turbine is closely associated with the utilization of elevated temperatures and a highly efficient air compressor. Most of the progress realized is therefore directly attributable to efforts of metallurgists and aerodynamicists. The main difficulty has been in building a turbine that can develop more power than is consumed by its own air compressors. The superior materials available today permit operation at elevated temperatures, and progress in fluid research has resulted in a highly efficient axial flow compressor. The inherent simplicity of the gas turbine, and its independence of water facilities and complex auxiliaries, ideally adapts it for certain classes of service. Examples are rail locomotives, electric power generators, gas compressor units, and marine applications.

Historical Outline

Current publicity appears to have created the impression among the general public that the gas turbine is an invention of recent origin. To dispel an erroneous conception, it is worthwhile to delve into the general background of this prime mover and observe the antiquity associated with the art.

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