The successful demonstration of the “Aerostatic Seal” in a half scale rotating facility is described in this paper. The Aerostatic seal is a novel dynamic clearance seal specifically designed for steam turbine secondary gas path applications. The seal responds to radial rotor excursions, so a reduced clearance can be maintained compared to conventional labyrinth seal without damage to the seal. This enables increased turbine performance through reduced leakage and increased tolerance of turbine transient events typically found during start up. The seal is an extension of the existing retractable seal design already deployed in commercial steam turbines.
The seal was tested in the Durham Rotating Seals Rig, which was developed specifically to test this device. The rig featured a rotor designed to run with large eccentricities to model high speed radial rotor excursions, and the seal was instrumented to measure the real time seal response to the rotor.
The experimental campaign has conclusively demonstrated the ability of the seal to dynamically respond to the rotor position. The key result is that the seal is able to track the rotor position at high speed, and hence maintain a mean seal clearance that is lower than the rotor eccentricity. Overall this work marks a key milestone in the development of the Aerostatic Seal, and leads the way to testing in a steam environment and application in steam turbine plant.