As key technologies to improve the performance of steam turbines, various types of high performance seal, such as active clearance control (ACC) seals and leaf seals , have been developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, LTD (MHI). In recent years, a new seal concept using an aerodynamic approach called “aero seal” has also been developed, which remarkably reduces the leakage flow while maintaining fin clearances. Furthermore, more robust and higher performance sealing technology called “abradable-aero hybrid seal” which combines the aero seal concept with the abradable seal technology was proposed.
The main concept of the aero seal is to control and utilize the vortex structure in the cavities of the labyrinth seal. In the cavities of the aero seal, the locally-controlled flow on the upstream side of the fin tip causes a strong contraction of the leakage flow and reduces the discharge coefficient significantly. This concept allows for a remarkably reduced leakage flow while maintaining fin clearances. Moreover, in order to achieve more robust and higher performance by minimizing the fin clearances, the abradable seal technology was applied to the aero seal concept. However, when the abradable seal is applied, the grooves may be formed on the wall surface of the abradable material due to rubbing of the fin into the abradable material. This situation leads to concern that the groove breaks the effective vortex structure of aero seal and causes negative effects on the seal performance.
In this paper, the improved aero seal configuration consisting of slant fins was proposed and it was verified that the reduction in the discharge coefficient of improved aero seal is up to 40% compared to the conventional labyrinth seal. Furthermore, more robust and higher performance sealing technology called “abradable-aero hybrid seal” was proposed and basic characteristics such as the effects of the presence of grooves, the axial position of the fin and seal clearance on the leakage mass flow and the vortex structure were parametrically investigated both experimentally and numerically. In the experiments, not only leakage mass flow measurements but also PIV measurements were carried out in order to visualize the flow patterns in the cavity of the abradable-aero hybrid seal. From the results, it was confirmed that the effective vortex structures were formed even with grooves at various fin positions and the leakage flow can be stably reduced over 40% in a wide range of axial position and reduced by 50% at the optimum position.