In this article we will discuss about simple vapour power cycles. Learn about:- 1. Carnot Cycle and Steam Plant 2. Rankine Cycle.

The heat energy released due to the combustion of fuel will be utilised in the boilers for converting water into steam (i.e., vapour) and this steam is then expanded into the steam engine/steam turbines to obtain useful work. The steam after producing work output is generally condensed in the condensers. If the condensate is pure, then it is pumped as feed water to the boiler by means of a feed pump.

1. Carnot Cycle and Steam Plant:

As we know, the Carnot cycle has the greatest possible efficiency between any two given temperature limits T1 and T2 and is given by ηth = (T1 – T2)/T1. It is important therefore to see whether Carnot cycle can be successfully applied to the steam plant.

Process 1-2:


This is an isothermal heat addition process and during this, water in the boiler gets converted into steam at constant temperature and pressure.

At point 2, steam is dry saturated.

Process 2-3:


The steam is expanded adiabatically isentropically in the steam turbine or steam engine from pressure P1 to Pb.

Process 3-4:

The steam after producing work output in the turbine enters the condenser. During this process isothermal heat rejection qr takes place and results into condensation of steam.

Process 4-1:


Partially condensed steam at 4 is fed into the feed pump, which pumps/compresses the mixture of wet steam and condensate isentropically to boiler pressure.

Even though, the Carnot efficiency is maximum for a given value T1 and T2. But because of some inherent practical difficulties, Carnot cycle cannot be applied for the steam plant.


Carnot cycle when applied to S.P.P. is practical upto a point that. Isothermal heat addition and the adiabatic expansion of steam in the turbine, which is quite reasonable.

The impractical part is in handling of steam in the condenser and pump. In the condenser, the steam is only partially condensed and the condensation must be stopped at 4. Also the feed pump must be capable of handling both wet steam and condensate.

A slight modification is made to this Carnot cycle which however produces a more practical cycle, called Rankine cycle. This cycle is accepted as, the practical but ideal cycle for the steam plant even though it has reduced thermal efficiency.

2. Rankine Cycle:

To obtain Rankine cycle, modification made to Carnot cycle, is that, instead of stopping the condensation at some intermediate condition, the condensation is completed.


On T-S diagram Carnot cycle, would be 1′-2-3-4′. For Rankine cycle, however, condensation is continued until it is complete at 4. At this point there is all water. This can be successfully dealt with by the feed pump.

Process 4-1:

Pumping process, where water of condenser pressure Pb is raised to boiler pressure P1. The pumping compression process is isentropic. At point (1) temperature is lower than Tsat. Subcooled state.

Process 1-2: (1 – 1′ and 1′ – 2)

During 1-1′ feed water is heated to Tsat (may occur in economiser/boiler itself.) During 1′ – 2 heat added qt at constant temperature and pressure P1 convert water into steam in the boiler.

Process 2-3:

Isentropic expansion of steam in the turbine from boiler pressure P1 to back pressure Pb, which results into turbine work WT.

Process 3-4:

The steam is condensed at constant pressure Pb in the condenser. The steam rejects heat qr to the cooling water.

It should be noted that the steam generated in the boiler or steam entering the turbine may be wet, dry-saturated and superheated. Correspondingly the expansion process in the turbine will be 2′-3′, 2-3, 2″-3″ respectively.

Analysis of Rankine Cycle (Assuming 1 kg of Steam):

From Eq. (5) we get q – w = Δ h

Process 1-2:

In the boiler heat qi converts water into steam

qi = h2– h1 (since q = 0)

Process 2-3:

In the turbine, when the steam expands, work will be produced.

WT = h2 – h3 kJ/kg (since q = 0)

Process 3-4:

In the condenser condensation will be completed and an amount of heat qr is rejected to the cooling water.

qr = h4-h3

i.e., qr = – [h3 – h4] Negative sign implies heat rejection.

Process 4—1:


For solving the problems we can read the value of h4 = hf from steam tables at back pressure Pb, h2 and h3 can be determined with the help of Mollier diagram or by calculations from steam tables. Since Wp = h1-h4 the volume of h1 can be determined by using Eq. (8) i.e., by finding Wp.

It should be noted that ηR < ηcarnot because the mean temperature of heat addition process in Rankine cycle is lower than the mean temperature of heat addition process in Carnot cycle. Whereas the mean temperature of heat rejection process in both the cycles is same.

In order to improve the efficiency of Rankine cycle, superheated steam has to be used, as represented by the process 2-2″. It improves the cycle efficiency, as it increases the mean temperature of heat addition process in the boiler. Also when the superheated steam is used, it reduces the corrosion of turbines.

The Rankine efficiency has the same form as before, from Fig. 14.3 on similar lines-

Effect of Inlet Pressure (Boiler Pressure) and Back Pressure (Exhaust Pressure) and Superheat on Rankine Efficiency:

The effect of inlet pressure, back pressure and the superheat on the performance of Rankine cycle can be studied with the help of T-S diagram as shown in fig. 14.4.

Boiler or Inlet Pressure:

If the boiler pressure is raised, the evaporation line is raised as the saturation temperature is increased from 4-1 to em. The maximum temperature t1 is kept constant i.e., tm, = t1. 1-2-3-4-1 is the basic cycle taken for comparison.

With increased boiler pressure, keeping the condenser pressure and temperature constant, the new cycle will be m 03 qem. The amount of heat rejected is decreased given by C20 pc and difference in the heat added –b341cb and bqempb is small and the thermal efficiency increases. It is experimentally found that at p1 = 170 bar and p2 = 0.14 bar, the efficiency is maximum and decrease with increase in p1.

Condenser Pressure and Temperature is Lowered:

The new cycle will be 1 dk 41. Work done is increased and heat rejected will be less so that the efficiency will be increased. Nature, however, precisely defines the limit of improvement that may be obtained by this means. Atmo­spheric temperature and therefore temperature of the cooling water puts the limits of the steam temperature and pressure.


If the steam is dry and saturated at the inlet of turbine, and if the steam is superheated then the work is increased and the proportional rise of work is more than the heat supplied so that the efficiency of the Rankine cycle increases.

It is interesting to note that condensing plants commonly operate more efficiently in the winter than in summer because of the lower cooling water temperature in the winter.