Types of Turbines

­There are many different kinds of turbines:

  • You have probably heard of a steam turbine. Most power plants use coal, natural gas, oil or a nuclear reactor to create steam. The steam runs through a huge and very carefully designed multi-stage turbine to spin an output shaft that drives the plant's generator.
  • Hydroelectric dams use water turbines in the same way to generate power. The turbines used in a hydroelectric plant look completely different from a steam turbine because water is so much denser (and slower moving) than steam, but it is the same principle.
  • Wind turbines, also known as wind mills, use the wind as their motive force. A wind turbine looks nothing like a steam turbine or a water turbine because wind is slow moving and very light, but again, the principle is the same.

A gas turbine is an extension of the same concept. In a gas turbine, a pressurized gas spins the turbine. In all modern gas turbine engines, the engine produces its own pressurized gas, and it does this by burning something like propane, natural gas, kerosene or jet fuel. The heat that comes from burning the fuel expands air, and the high-speed rush of this hot air spins the turbine.