# Carnot Cycle - Properties and Significance - Efficiency of Real Heat Engines

Efficiency of Real Heat Engines

Carnot realized that in reality it is not possible to build a thermodynamically reversible engine, so real heat engines are less efficient than indicated by Equation 3. In addition, real engines that operate along this cycle are rare. Nevertheless, Equation 3 is extremely useful for determining the maximum efficiency that could ever be expected for a given set of thermal reservoirs.

Although Carnot's cycle is an idealisation, the expression of Carnot efficiency is still useful. Consider the average temperatures,

at which heat is input and output, respectively. Replace TH and TC in Equation (3) by <TH> and <TC> respectively.

For the Carnot cycle, or its equivalent, <TH> is the highest temperature available and <TC> the lowest. For other less efficient cycles, <TH> will be lower than TH, and <TC> will be higher than TC. This can help illustrate, for example, why a reheater or a regenerator can improve the thermal efficiency of steam power plantsâ€”and why the thermal efficiency of combined-cycle power plants (which incorporate gas turbines operating at even higher temperatures) exceeds that of conventional steam plants.

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Carnot Heat Engine - Efficiency of Real Heat Engines
... Carnot realized that in reality it is not possible to build a thermodynamically reversible engine, so real heat engines are less efficient than indicated by Equation (1) ... Nevertheless, Equation (1) is extremely useful for determining the maximum efficiency that could ever be expected for a given set of thermal reservoirs ... is an idealisation, the expression of Carnot efficiency is still useful ...

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