The remarkable developments in gas turbine materials and cooling technologies have allowed a steady increase in combustor outlet temperature and hence in gas turbine efficiency over the last half century. However, the efficiency benefits of higher gas temperature, even at the current levels, are significantly offset by the increased losses associated with the required cooling. Additionally, the advancements in gas turbine cooling technology have introduced considerable complexities into turbine design and manufacture. Therefore, a reduction in coolant requirements for the current gas temperature levels is one possible way for gas turbine designers to achieve even higher efficiency levels.
The leading edges of the first turbine vane row are exposed to high heat loads. The high coolant requirements and geometry constraints limit the possible arrangement of the multiple rows of film cooling holes in the so called showerhead region. In the past, investigators have tested many different showerhead configurations, varying the number of rows, inclination angle and shape of the cooling holes. However the current leading edge cooling strategies using showerheads have not been shown to allow further increase in turbine temperature without excessive use of coolant air. Therefore new cooling strategies for the first vane have to be explored.
In gas turbines with multiple combustor chambers around the annulus, the transition duct walls can be used to shield, i.e. to protect the first vane leading edges from the high heat loads. In this way the stagnation region at the leading edge and the shower-head of film cooling holes can be completely removed, resulting in a significant reduction in the total amount of cooling air that is otherwise required. By eliminating the showerhead the shielding concept significantly simplifies the design and lowers the manufacturing costs.
This paper numerically analyses the potential of the leading edge shielding concept for cooling air reduction. The vane shape was modified to allow for the implementation of the concept and non-restrictive relative movement between the combustor and the vane. It has been demonstrated that the coolant flow that was originally used for cooling the combustor wall trailing edge and a fraction of the coolant air used for the vane showerhead cooling can be used to effectively cool both the suction and the pressure surfaces of the vane.