Does anybody know where I can get a small (1-2kw) steam turbine? Could an automobile turbine (aka turbocharger) be modified to operate a generator to produce electricity?

You may wish to check into Tesla steam turbine technology. They are easy to make and cheap. A little inefficient, but not too bad if you make a good one.

The Tesla-type turbine, in a hybrid form, would be an ideal prime- mover in automobile applications. We (as Tesla) advocate the use of a small Tesla turbine, capable of running on virtually any combustable fuel (or from steam) powers an efficient alternator/generator, which drives an electric motor. Batteries supply standard power. The turbine “kicks” in under high load, and also to re-charge the batteries. Solar panels could also be used for environmentally friendly re-charging when the weather permits. This arrangement allows for an extraordinarily high fuel economy. Further enhancements would be regenerative braking (further increasing economy through battery re-charge through braking, which, under normal driving conditions in suberbia, is about 40% brake use). There are so many ways in which we can “change” the norm with regards to conventional automobile technology, which is a total, useless waste of our resources, currently. Until forced, or “persuaded”, the big auto makers have virtually no intention on changing their standard designs, simply because of the costs involved (to them) to benefit the environment or our earth’s wayning resources, not to mention the pollution issues. Note: the Tesla turbine is capable of running from ANY motive force (compressed air, combustables of any type, pressurized water, steam…) and with a properly designed, efficient combustor, is capable of extremely low NO, and CO2 outputs. The output gas we measured in one of our New Jersey tests from propane fired combustion was (tested by a NJ State Inspection Station) virtually breathable. Hope this gave you some food for thought.

Thanks for your input regarding the Tesla turbine. There is no such thing as “off topic” here on Wastewatts. That’s where we differ. Dull subjects just die a natural death. It would make an interesting project to fire one a small Tesla turbine straight from the output of a wood-gasifier. Unlike the IC engine, where the gas needs to be cooled prior to burning, the Tesla could handle the hot gas, and hopefully return a reasonable efficiency. The advantage of the Tesla is its simplicity of build, and it is going to be unaffected by any ash or soot that passes through it from the wood-gas generator. Frank, what are the “rules of thumb” relating turbine diameter, gap, no. of runners and rpm to the shaft output hp of a Tesla. Supposing I had a 6″ turbine doing 10,000rpm – what is a rough horsepower for such a machine?

A six inch Tesla turbine would run rather high in the RPM range (too high for a conventional generator to run at, which typically are operated in te 3,600 RPM line-volt range.). We’ve run right into that wall, before. The cost of reducing the RPM’s to a “useable” range gets pretty non- cost effective (in the high HP units, not necessarily so with low HP usage). A better arrangement would be to allow for an 18″ diameter unit, with the amount of disks dependent on the HP requirements. A single 18″ disk is capable of extracting appr. 8-9 HP per disk, assuming a 67% efficiency level (which we are currently gaining). You are correct about the TT’s ability to “ignore” the soot and ash build- up, however, an additional thought would be to allow for steam saturation along with the direct heat from the combustibles (wood). One could easily install a copper tube coil inside of the wood unit (50 gallon drum, with a door – sealed – forced air supply, and outlet: aka – Mard Nye’s unit) would easily have enough BTU’s available to give a good HP range (off the purely top of my head, I’d say a good 25 HP would be easily achieved from a fully stoke unit of this type, which would equate to about a good 10KW of generator capacity). The disk spacing would be nominally around .030″…disk diameter of 18″…and I’d say about 6 to 8 disks is adequate. Disk size to Exhaust ratio would be around 4-1 (18″ disks with an outlet of 1/4th the total disk area). Construction: dirt cheap – use a standard iron or steel pipe with appr. inner diam. equal to the disk that you cut out…one good pump bearing frame…single exhaust TT…two endplates, one bearing frame side; the other with exhaust opening, and a variable inlet nozzle (that is a little bit tricky for any home builder). Tesla built a super-simple turbine, which was his “dynamo-electric machine” which used the most simple Tesla turbine I have ever seen (somewhat described, above) which would fit the ticket here, perfectly. Machining costs would be virtually minimal (no high HP…no high costs, is the rule of thumb). Hope this helped.