In axial turbine the tip clearance flow occurring in rotor blade rows is responsible for about one third of the aerodynamic losses in the blade row and in many cases is the limiting factor for the blade lifetime. The tip leakage vortex forms when the leaking fluid crosses the gap between the rotor blade tip and the casing from pressure to suction side and rolls up into a vortex on the blade suction side. The flow through the tip gap is both of high velocity and high temperature, with the heat transfer to the blade from the hot fluid being very high in the blade tip area. In order to avoid blade tip burnout and a failure of the machine, blade tip cooling is commonly used. This paper presents the physical study and an improved design of a recessed blade tip for a highly loaded axial turbine rotor blade with application in high pressure axial turbines in aero engine or power generation. With use of three-dimensional Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), the flow field near the tip of the blade for different shapes of the recess cavities is investigated. Through better understanding and control of cavity vortical structures, an improved design is presented and the differences to the generic flat tip blade are highlighted. It is observed that by an appropriate profiling of the recess shape, the total tip heat transfer Nusselt Number was significantly reduced, being 15% lower than the flat tip and 7% lower than the baseline recess shape. Experimental results also showed an overall improvement of 0.2% in the one-and-1/2-stage turbine total efficiency with the improved recess design compared to the flat tip case. The CFD analysis conducted on single rotor row configurations predicted a 0.38% total efficiency increase for the rotor equipped with the new recess design compared to the flat tip rotor.

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