Gas Turbine Engine

Project Type: Propulsion and Levitation

Project Information

Project Description:

 Gas Turbine Engine DiagramThe task is to design, build and test a propane-fired turbine jet engine manufactured from an automotive turbocharger.  Ambient air is introduced into the compressor, where it is pressurized and injected into the combustor.  The pressurized air is mixed with propane and ignited.   High-temperature, high-speed exhaust gasses flow into the turbine and turn a shaft connected to the compressor fan that now spins faster than before.  In this case, the shaft is not connected to an external load, so the work performed is all internal.

Level of Difficulty: High


Brayton Cycle, isentropic compression, temperature-enthalpy diagram, Frank Whittle, stoichiometry


This video  features a construction tutorial at

John Kyle Thoma, et al., “Design, Fabrication, and Testing of an Automotive Turbocharger-Based Gas Turbine Engine,” Senior Project, Department of Aerospace Engineering, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, June 2010,

Team Roles

Electrical Engineer (2) – Electrical Engineers on the project are responsible for the design and construction of a high-voltage ignition system, a fiber-optic based tachometer, and electrical utilities for oil pumping, cooling, and machine portability.  Additionally, the Electrical Engineers work with other team member to establish machine diagnostics and safety systems.

Aerospace Engineer (2) – Aerospace Engineers on the project are responsible for the design and construction of the combustion chamber and integrating it between the compressor fan and output turbine.  The Aerospace Engineers are also responsible for the turbocharger’s oil system, including pump selection, filters, radiator and reservoir.

Chemical Engineer (2) – Chemical Engineers on the project are responsible for the design and construction of the propane fuel system and its integration into the combustion chamber through a critical mixing nozzle.  Furthermore, the Chemical Engineers will participate in the flame tube design and conduct isolated experiments on the combustion chamber powered by a leaf blower and propane.  Afterburners are an option.

Computer Scientist (2) – Computer Scientists on the project are responsible for all analog and digital controls and diagnostics on the machine.  These include analog meters for fuel, oil, and boost pressures plus electronic measurements of exhaust gas temperatures and turbine rpm.  Computer Scientists are also responsible for computer-based data acquisition and interlocks to assure safe and sequential system operation.

Designer (2) – Designers on the project have the difficult job of blending the design goals of the various teams into an device that can be manufactured, maintained, assembled quickly, transported by hand, and is safe to operate and demonstrate to crowds of people.  Designers validate system designs via CAD illustrations, supervise component manufacturing, and resolve operational problems that require modifications.

Journalist (1) – The Journalist documents the project’s progress on the website, communicates with the local media, and is responsible for a final report to the principal sponsors and Power Mountain Engineering.  The Journalist also works closely with the Multimedia Artist to provide video and graphic art displays for demonstrations that explain the project to the public.  The whole project is your project.

Multimedia Artist (1) – The Artist also documents the project’s progress on the website and works with the Journalist to maintain the project’s presence on social media.  Additionally, the Artist designs and organizes all public relations events to assure spectator safety and to enhance the community’s awareness of science and technology.  The whole project is your project.

Business Manager (1) – The Business Manager is responsible for reporting the project’s progress against a predetermined schedule, determines critical path items to completion, and tracks project spending to assure that costs remain within a fixed budget.  The Manager works with all team members to identify problems early and resolve them quickly.  The whole project is your project.

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