Experimental investigations with a six stage real scale low pressure steam turbine operated at a very low load conditions are presented in this paper. Although the tested 35 inch last stage blades are circumferentially coupled at both tip and mid span with an intention to reduce the vibration stress, still its increase was observed at extremely low load condition.
The pressure fluctuations were measured by several silicon diaphragm sensors which were mounted on both inner and outer casings of the stator inlet, exit and blade exit position. The measurement of the vibration stress was performed by strain gauges on several blades.
The power spectra of unsteady pressures were precisely investigated considering both their location and steam flow condition. And the results implied that huge reverse flow and re-circulation started in the same location as a blade-to-blade CFD predicted. In terms of the correlation between vibration stress and the flow feature, the pressure fluctuation around the blade tip produces dominant effects on the vibration stress.
The unsteady pressure frequency were also investigated and compared with those of the blade resonance and rotational speed. Basic trends observed in the results are similar to what other researchers reported, and on top of that, the continuous trends of pressure fluctuation and blade vibration stress were systematically investigated. Even the wall pressure, not the pressure on blade surface, showed the effective fluctuations which excited the several nodes of natural frequencies of the last stage blade.
A series of FFT of fluid force by a full annulus quasi-steady CFD simulation seems to predict dominant mode of the excitation which account for the behavior of vibration stresses. The mechanism of the rapid stress increase was examined by considering CFD results and measured unsteady pressure data together.
As the test facility takes a responsibility as an independent power producer, the tests were conducted in real plant operations which include multi stage effects, inlet distortions, Reynolds Number effect and so on. The obtained data and the particular indicator of vibration stress increase can be used as a part of design tool validation with neither aerodynamic nor mechanical corrections.