The effect of rounded labyrinth teeth tips and worn abradable lands has been found to give substantially increased leakage, which is well known to give reduced machine efficiency. Very little information concerning this exists, and some of the first measurements and visualization movies for stepped labyrinths are provided here to give an enhanced understanding of this phenomenon. A unique, very large-scale seal test facility was used. Glitter, and alternatively fluorescein dye, was employed as the flow tracer material. The flow visualization movies were digitally stored on the hard drive of a computer.

Large decreases of leakage resistance due to the presence of worn teeth as well as rub-grooves were found. For the cases considered, the leakage resistance decrease for the large step height configurations were 85 percent, 55 percent and 70 percent for the small, medium and large pre-rub clearances, respectively. It was also found that the resistance varied with wear geometry, in order from highest to lowest resistance, as: (a) ungrooved-unrounded-teeth, (b) ungrooved-rounded-teeth, (c) grooved-unrounded-teeth and (d) grooved-rounded-teeth. Further, a substantial tooth tip recirculation zone was visually observed only for the grooved-unrounded-teeth cases, and it was shown to be the mechanism by which the unrounded teeth give this configuration a higher resistance than do the rounded teeth.

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