One of the most important problems facing gas turbine designers today is the ingestion of hot mainstream gases into the wheel-space between the turbine disc (rotor) and its adjacent casing (stator). A rim seal is fitted at the periphery and a superposed sealant flow — typically fed through the bore of the stator — is used to prevent ingress. The majority of research studies investigating ingress do so in the absence of any leakage paths that exist throughout the engine’s architecture. These inevitable pathways are found between the mating interfaces of adjacent pieces of hardware. In an environment where the turbine is subjected to aggressive thermal and centrifugal loading these interface gaps can be difficult to predict and the resulting leakage flows which pass through them even harder to account for.

This paper describes experimental results from a research facility which experimentally models hot gas ingestion into the wheel-space of an axial turbine stage. The facility was specifically designed to incorporate leakage flows through the stator disc; leakage flows were introduced axially through the stator shroud or directly underneath the vane carrier ring. Measurements of CO2 gas concentration, static pressure and total pressure were used to examine the wheel-space flow structure with and without ingress from the mainstream gas-path. Data is presented for a simple axial-clearance rim-seal. The results support two distinct flow-structures, which are shown to be dependent on the mass-flow ratio of bore and leakage flows. Once the leakage flow was increased above a certain threshold, the flow structure is shown to transition from a classical Batchelor-type rotor-stator system to a vortex-dominated structure. The existence of a toroidal vortex immediately inboard of the outer rim-seal is shown to encourage ingestion.

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