My understanding of gas turbines is as follows:
- When you spin an impeller, you can compress air (this requires work) and when compressed air is expanded, it can be used to spin a turbine (this generates work).
- Thermodynamically, when you heat air, you increase its enthalpy, which is proportional to the work output you could get from expanding the air.
- However hotter air requires more work to compress.
- So, if we compress cool air (which also has the side effect of increasing temperature), heat the air (combustion chamber), then expand hot air, the power generated by the expansion (turbine) is greater than the power consumed by the compression (compressor). And this difference can be used elsewhere, e.g. to generate electricity.
However, I am struggling to reconcile this understanding with the Carnot cycle, which is the ideal heat engine.
With a Carnot cycle, the heat addition is isothermal, so the enthalpy of the air is not actually increased and the air is not actually "hotter" after heat addition - so my above explanation sort of falls apart.
Is all the heating done during the compression? So you start with cool air, compress it, and then you have high-pressure, hot air?
Could someone pin-point what's wrong with my current understanding?