The physics of water turbines © Siemens Stiftung 2020 CC BY-SA 4.0 international

The physics of water turbines

Interactive

Information module:
A water turbine converts the potential and kinetic energy of water to rotational energy. This module describes the designs of water turbines. It briefly refers to the principles of fluid mechanics.

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SWF (570.9 kByte) HTML (1.3 MByte)
2021-03-22
The different types of water turbines are discussed first: Pelton, Francis, and Kaplan turbines. The waterwheel in a mill could actually be considered a precursor to the water turbine. The type of turbine in a hydroelectric plant depends on the conditions (water volume, height of drop, flow rate). The characteristic map of water turbines indicates the flow volume and height of drop needed for that particular type of turbine in order to achieve a certain amount of power. The laws of fluid mechanics play an enormous role in all turbine types. An overview table shows a comparison of the three turbine types with their most important parameters.

Information and ideas:
What is the reason for the different designs of water and gas turbines? How do the working media (water or gas) differ in terms of their physical properties? What does the Bernoulli equation have to do with the spoiler on a racecar or with an airplane?
Interdisciplinary lessons in geography and technology: Students learn to determine which types of turbines need to be used on the basis of the geography of selected hydroelectric plants.
The images on the first page of the information module show museum objects, so the turbines are not technologically up-to-date. However, the differences are easy to recognize.
Information sheet
Physics; Technology
Grade 5 to 6; Grade 7 to 9; Grade 10 to 13
Middle/high school; Vocational training
Energy; Hydroelectric plant; Power generation; Renewable energy; Turbine
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