In gas power cycles, the working fluid remains a gas throughout the entire cycle. Spark-ignition engines, diesel engines, and conventional gas turbines are familiar examples of devices that operate on gas cycles. In all these engines, energy is provided by burning a fuel within the system boundaries. That is, they are internal combustion engines. Because of this combustion process, the composition of the working fluid changes from air and fuel to combustion products during the course of the cycle. However, considering that air is pre- dominantly nitrogen that undergoes hardly any chemical reactions in the combustion chamber, the working fluid closely resembles air at all times.

Even though internal combustion engines operate on a mechanical cycle (the piston returns to its starting position at the end of each revolution), the working fluid does not undergo a complete thermodynamic cycle. It is thrown out of the engine at some point in the cycle (as exhaust gases) instead of being returned to the initial state. Working on an open cycle is the characteristic of all internal combustion engines.

The actual gas power cycles are rather complex. To reduce the analysis to a manageable level, we utilize the following approximations, commonly known as the air-standard assumptions:

1. The working fluid is air, which continuously circulates in a closed loop and always behaves as an ideal gas.

2. All the processes that make up the cycle are internally reversible.

3. The combustion process is replaced by a heat-addition process from an external source (Fig. 8–9).

4. The exhaust process is replaced by a heat-rejection process that restores the working fluid to its initial state.

Another assumption that is often utilized to simplify the analysis even more is that air has constant specific heats whose values are determined at room temperature (25˚C or 77˚F). When this assumption is utilized, the air- standard assumptions are called the cold-air-standard assumptions. A cycle for which the air-standard assumptions are applicable is frequently referred to as an air-standard cycle.

The air-standard assumptions stated above provide considerable simplification in the analysis without significantly deviating from the actual cycles. This simplified model enables us to study qualitatively the influence of major parameters on the performance of the actual engines.

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