In gas turbines, seals that reduce the leakage between high and low pressure regions are critical for improved performance. Damaging rubs between the rotating and non-rotating parts of turbomachinery shaft seals occur due to thermal and assembly misalignments, and rotordynamic vibration during engine start-up and shut-down transients. These rubs lead to increased seal leakage and hence to reduced overall turbine efficiency and life span. The Film Riding Pressure Actuated Leaf Seal (FRPALS) is a non-contacting compliant seal under development to adapt to varying clearances without rubbing, while maintaining low leakage.
This paper presents the measurements of the FRPALS in a test rig specifically designed to test novel shaft seals for turbomachinery. The rig features a 254 mm diameter rotor with a maximum surface speed of 200 m/s. Pressure drops of up to 3.5 bar can be achieved. The results of initial testing at zero rotational speed are presented for the FRPALS in a reverse orientation. The opening and closing translations of the leaves have been measured using eddy current displacement probes targeting the movable parts of the seal. The seal clearance has been shown to remain constant for a range of applied pressure drops, which indicates the stable operation of the seal, though resulting in contact with the rotor at 1.5 bar. Mass flow leakage measurements have also demonstrated the sealing performance of the FRPALS. They show the potential of the seal to film ride subject to design modifications to maintain a more uniform film thickness. The steady-state Reynolds equation for lubrication has been used to predict the pressure along the seal clearance. The predictions have been compared with pressure measurements from a transducer located in the clearance fluid thin film.