Non-contracting annular seals, such as helical groove seals, are widely used between the impeller stages in the liquid turbomachinery to reduce the fluid leakage and stabilize the rotor-bearing system. However, previous literature has expounded that the helical groove seals possess the poor sealing property at low rotational speed condition and face the rotor instability problem inducing by negative stiffness and damping, which is undesirable for liquid turbomachinery. In this paper, to obtain the high sealing performance and the reliable rotordynamic capability for full operational conditions of the machine, two novel mixed helical groove seals, which possess a hole-pattern/pocket-damper stator matching with a helically-grooved rotor, were designed and assessed for a multiple-stage high-pressure centrifugal liquid pump.

In order to assess the static and rotordynamic characteristics of these two types of mixed helical groove seals, a three-dimensional (3D) steady CFD-based method with the multiple reference frame theory was used to predict the seal leakage and drag power loss. Moreover, a proposed 3D transient CFD-based perturbation method, based on the multi-frequency one-dimensional stator whirling model, the multiple reference frame theory and a mesh deformation technique, was utilized for the predictions of seal rotordynamic characteristics. The accuracy of the numerical methods was demonstrated based on the experiment data of leakage and rotordynamic forces coefficients of published helical groove seals and hole-pattern seal. The leakage and rotordynamic forces coefficients of these two mixed helical groove seals were presented at five rotational speeds (0.5 krpm, 2.0 krpm, 4.0 krpm, 6.0 krpm, 8.0 kpm) with large pressure drop of 25MPa, and compared with three types of conventional helical groove seal (helical grooves on rotor, stator or both), and two types of damper seals (hole-pattern seal, pocket damper seal with smooth rotor).

Numerical results show that the mixed groove seals possess generally better sealing capacity than the conventional helical groove seals, especially at low rotational speed conditions. The circumferentially-isolated cavities (hole or pocket) on the stator enhance the “pumping effect” of the helical grooves for mixed helical groove seals, what is more, the helical grooves also strengthen the dissipation of kinetic energy in the isolated cavities, thus the mixed helical groove seal offers less leakage. Although the mixed helical groove seals possess a slightly larger drag power loss, it is acceptable in consideration of reduced leakage for the high-power turbomachinery. The present novel mixed helical groove seals have pronounced stability advantages over the conventional helical groove seal, due to the obvious large positive stiffness and increased damping. The mixed helical groove seal with the hole-pattern stator and the helically-grooved rotor (HPS/GR) possesses the lowest leakage and the largest effective damping, especially for the high rotational speeds. From the viewpoint of sealing capacity and rotor stability, the novel mixed groove seals are better seal concepts for liquid turbomachinery.

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