Liquid annular seals with parallelly-grooved stator or rotor are used as replacements for smooth plain seals in centrifugal pumps to reduce leakage and break up contaminants within the working fluid. Parallelly-grooved liquid annular seals have advantages of less leakage and smaller possibility of abrasion when the seal rotor-stator rubs in comparison to smooth plain seals. This paper deals with the static and rotordynamic characteristics of parallelly-grooved liquid annular seals, which are limited in the literature.

Numerical results of leakage flow rates, drag powers and rotordynamic force coefficients were presented and compared for a grooved-stator/smooth-rotor (GS-SR) liquid annular seal and a smooth-stator/grooved-rotor (SS-GR) liquid annular seal, utilizing a modified transient CFD-based perturbation approach based on the multiple-frequency elliptical-orbit rotor whirling model. Both liquid annular seals have identical seal axial length, rotor diameter, sealing clearance, groove number and geometry. The present transient CFD-based perturbation method was adequately validated based on the published experiment data of leakage flow rates and frequency-independent rotordynamic force coefficients for the GS-SR and SS-GR liquid annular seals at various pressure drops with differential inlet preswirl ratios. Simulations were performed at three pressure drops (4.14 bar, 6.21 bar, 8.27 bar), three rotational speeds (2 krpm, 4 krpm, 6 krpm) and three inlet preswirl ratios (0, 0.5, 1.0), applying a wide rotor whirling frequency range up to 200 Hz, to analyze and compare the influences of operation conditions on the static and rotordynamic characteristics for both the GS-SR and SS-GR liquid annular seals. Results show that the present two liquid annular seals possess similar sealing capability, and the SS-GR seal produces a slightly larger (∼ 2–10%) drag power loss than the GS-SR seal. For small rotor whirling motion around a centered position, both seals have the identical direct force coefficients and the equal-magnitude opposite-sign cross-coupling force coefficients in the orthogonal directions x and y.

For all operation conditions, both the GS-SR and SS-GR liquid annular seals possess negative direct stiffness K and positive direct damping C. The GS-SR seal produces purely positive Ceff throughout the whirling frequency range for all operation conditions, while Ceff for the SS-GR seal shows a significant decrease and transitions to negative value at the crossover frequency fco with increasing rotational speed and inlet preswirl. From a rotordynamic viewpoint, the GS-SR liquid annular seal is a better seal concept for pumps.

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