It is well known that the last stage of a turbine and the subsequent diffuser should be viewed at and designed as a coupled system rather than as single standalone components. The turbine outlet flow imposes the inlet conditions to the diffuser, whereas the recovered dynamic pressure in the diffuser directly controls the turbine back pressure.
With changing operating point, the turbine outflow can vary significantly. This results consequently in large variations of the diffuser performance. A major role in the coupled system of turbine and diffuser can be attributed to the tip leakage flow. While it is desirable to minimize the tip leakage with regard to the turbine, a higher leakage mass flow can often be beneficial for the diffuser performance. As there is currently a trend towards aggressive and hence shorter diffusers which are particularly prone to separation, the question arises where the optimum for this tradeoff problem lies.
To investigate the performance in the coupled turbine/diffuser system, a generic last stage with shrouded rotor and axial exhaust diffuser have been designed. The components are representative for heavy duty stationary gas turbine applications. Results are presented for three different operating points representing part-load, design-load and over-load condition. Three different seal gap widths are taken into account to control the leakage flow. The results indicate that an operating point dependent optimum gap width can be found for the coupled system efficiency whereas the maximimum turbine performance is always achieved with a minimum gap width.