Numerical CFD simulations on a small-scale ORC expander using a customized grid generation methodology

Authors: Bianchi G, Rane S, Kovačević A, Cipollone R, Murgia S, Contaldi G
Where published:Energy Procedia

Positive displacement machines are the most suitable devices for small-scale waste heat to power conversion units based on an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) due to their capabilities of handling small mass flow rates and high pressure ratios. Among the technologies, sliding vane machines provide unique features such as low operating revolution speed, geometrical flexibility and uncomplicated manufacturing. Nonetheless, research and product development in this field have been constrained by the lack of interfaces between deforming and moving fluid domains that characterize sliding vane devices and the design tools at the state of the art. This research work tackles this challenge and presents the development of an analytical grid generation for sliding vane machines that is based on user defined nodal displacement. Through this approach, the numerical methodology discretizes the fluid domains enclosed between the cells and ensures conservation of intrinsic quantities by maintaining the cell connectivity and structure. Transient 3D single phase simulations on a small scale ORC expander were further set up in the ANSYS CFX solver and provided insights on the main flow field as well as in the leakage paths between rotor blade tips and casing. The numerical results were eventually validated with reference to an experimental dataset related to a waste heat to power conversion application in compressed air systems where the sliding vane ORC expander worked with R236fa, at a pressure ratio of 2.65 and at 1551 RPM.

Keywords: Organic Rankine Cycle , ANSYS CFX , expander , sliding vane machines