Gas Turbine Engines – Turbine Section (Part Two)

in Aircraft Engines

The rotor element of the turbine section consists essentially of a shaft and a wheel. [Figure 1-63] The turbine wheel is a dynamically balanced unit consisting of blades attached to a rotating disk. The disk, in turn, is attached to the main power-transmitting shaft of the engine. The exhaust gases leaving the turbine inlet nozzle vanes act on the blades of the turbine wheel, causing the assembly to rotate at a very high rate of speed. The high rotational speed imposes severe centrifugal loads on the turbine wheel, and at the same time the elevated temperatures result in a lowering of the strength of the material. Consequently, the engine speed and temperature must be controlled to keep turbine operation within safe limits.

Figure 1-63. Rotor elements of the turbine assembly.

Figure 1-63. Rotor elements of the turbine assembly.

The turbine disk is referred to as such without blades. When the turbine blades are installed, the disk then becomes the turbine wheel. The disk acts as an anchoring component for the turbine blades. Since the disk is bolted or welded to the shaft, the blades can transmit to the rotor shaft the energy they extract from the exhaust gases.


The disk rim is exposed to the hot gases passing through the blades and absorbs considerable heat from these gases. In addition, the rim also absorbs heat from the turbine blades by conduction. Hence, disk rim temperatures are normally high and well above the temperatures of the more remote inner portion of the disk. As a result of these temperature gradients, thermal stresses are added to the rotational stresses. There are various methods to relieve, at least partially, the aforementioned stresses. One such method is to bleed cooling air back onto the face of the disk.

Another method of relieving the thermal stresses of the disk is incidental to blade installation. A series of grooves or notches, conforming to the blade root design, are broached in the rim of the disk. These grooves allow attachment of the turbine blades to the disk; at the same time, space is provided by the notches for thermal expansion of the disk. Sufficient clearance exists between the blade root and the notch to permit movement of the turbine blade when the disk is cold. During engine operation, expansion of the disk decreases the clearance. This causes the blade root to fit tightly in the disk rim.

The turbine shaft is usually fabricated from alloy steel. [Figure 1-63] It must be capable of absorbing the high torque loads that are exerted on it.

The methods of connecting the shaft to the turbine disk vary. In one method, the shaft is welded to the disk, which has a butt or protrusion provided for the joint. Another method is by bolting. This method requires that the shaft have a hub that fits a machined surface on the disk face. Then, the bolts are inserted through holes in the shaft hub and anchored in tapped holes in the disk. Of the two connection methods, bolting is more common.

The turbine shaft must have some means for attachment to the compressor rotor hub. This is usually accomplished by a spline cut on the forward end of the shaft. The spline fits into a coupling device between the compressor and turbine shafts. If a coupling is not used, the splined end of the turbine shaft may fit into a splined recess in the compressor rotor hub. This splined coupling arrangement is used almost exclusively with centrifugal compressor engines, while axial compressor engines may use either of these described methods.

Figure 1-64. Turbine blade with fir-tree design and lock-tab method of blade retention.

Figure 1-64. Turbine blade with fir-tree design and lock-tab method of blade retention.

There are various ways of attaching turbine blades, some similar to compressor blade attachment. The most satisfactory method utilizes the fir-tree design. [Figure 1-64]

Figure 1-65. Rivet method of turbine blade retention.

Figure 1-65. Rivet method of turbine blade retention.

The blades are retained in their respective grooves by a variety of methods, the more common of which are peening, welding, lock tabs, and riveting. Figure 1-65 shows a typical turbine wheel using rivets for blade retention.

The peening method of blade retention is used frequently in various ways. One of the most common applications of peening requires a small notch to be ground in the edge of the blade fir-tree root prior to the blade installation. After the blade is inserted into the disk, the notch is filled by the disk metal, which is “flowed” into it by a small punch-mark made in the disk adjacent to the notch. The tool used for this job is similar to a center punch.

Another method of blade retention is to construct the root of the blade so that it contains all the elements necessary for its retention. This method uses the blade root as a stop made on one end of the root so that the blade can be inserted and removed in one direction only, while on the opposite end is a tang. This tang is bent to secure the blade in the disk.