A method of circumventing the turbine inlet temperature limitation of present-day gas turbines is presented. This method is based on a direct fluid-to-fluid energy exchanger whereby the available energy of expansion of the hot combustion gas in a gas turbine cycle is transferred directly to a colder gas. The aerodynamic wave processes in several possible modes of operation are examined to determine the inherent limitations in efficiency of direct fluid-to-fluid energy exchange processes. In particular, it is demonstrated that, by using a system of isentropic compression waves to avoid shock losses and by carefully choosing the molecular weights of the fluids utilized in the energy exchanger, perfect energy exchange is possible in principle. When allowances are made for losses due to mixing, leakage, and viscous effects, an energy exchanger utilizing heated combustion air at 3240 deg F to drive steam at 1500 deg F with a potential energy exchange efficiency of 85 percent is feasible. Applications of the air-steam energy exchanger operating in gas turbine cycles utilizing a conservative choice of component efficiencies indicate that thermal efficiencies of gas turbine power cycles of 50–60 percent may be possible.

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