This work aims at investigating the impact of axial gap variation on aerodynamic performance of a high-pressure steam turbine stage.

Numerical and experimental campaigns were conducted on a 1.5-stage of a reaction steam turbine. This low speed test rig was designed and operated in different operating conditions. Two different configurations were studied, in which blades axial gap was varied in a range from 40% to 95% of the blade axial chord. Numerical analyses were carried out by means of three-dimensional, viscous, unsteady simulations, adopting measured inlet/outlet boundary conditions. Two set of measurements were performed. Steady measurements, from one hand, for global performance estimation of the whole turbine, such as efficiency, mass flow, stage work. Steady and unsteady measurements, on the other hand, were performed downstream of rotor row, in order to characterize the flow structures in this region.

The fidelity of computational setup was proven by comparing numerical results to measurements. Main performance curves and span-wise distributions shown a good agreement in terms of both shape of curves/distributions and absolute values. Moreover, the comparison of two dimensional maps downstream of rotor row shown similar structures of the flow field.

Finally, a comprehensive study of the axial gap effect on stage aerodynamic performance was carried out for four blade spacings (10%, 25%, 40% and 95% of S1 axial chord), and five aspect ratios (1.0, 1.6, 3, 4 and 5). The results pointed out how unsteady interaction between blade rows affects stage operation, in terms of pressure and flow angle distributions, as well as of secondary flows development. The combined effect of these aspects in determining the stage efficiency is investigated and discussed in detail.

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