The design of high-performance gas turbines requires the reliable prediction of blade tip clearances. Excess clearances allow a portion of the hot gas to flow over the blade tips without performing useful work. The tip leakage flow disturbs the flow field which results in additional losses. Moreover, insufficient blade tip clearance may cause interference which can reduce turbine life. In conventional turbomachines, the blade tip clearances vary markedly with the operating condition of the turbine, essentially as a result of variations in gas temperatures and rotor speed.

Siemens tests prototype gas turbines in its own test facility. An extensive experimental program is devised to verify design calculations regarding strength, aerodynamics and thermodynamics. Among other measurements, the minimum operating tip clearance is measured by abrasion pins. Electro-mechanical sensors measure transient tip clearance during a selected duty cycle consisting of turning-gear operation, cold start, idle operation, as well as part-load, full-load, and most importantly, hot-start. In the present paper, the compressor and turbine tip clearances measured during such a load cycle are compared with calculated predictions. The experimental instrumentation for the prototype gas turbine, as well as design calculations, are presented.

The results show that the new Model V84.3 gas turbine does not exhibit critically small clearances during cold start nor during hot-start due to the careful matching of magnitude and the time constants of the thermal expansion of the blades, discs, blade-ring carriers and casing.

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