Gas labyrinth seals (LS) restrict secondary flows (leakage) in turbomachinery and their impact on the efficiency and rotordynamic stability of high-pressure compressors and steam turbines can hardly be overstated. Among seal types, the interlocking labyrinth seal (ILS), having teeth on both the rotor and the stator, is able to reduce leakage up to 30% compared to other LSs with either all teeth on the rotor (TOR) or all teeth on the stator. This paper introduces a revamped facility to test gas seals for their rotordynamic performance and presents measurements of the leakage and cavity pressures in a five teeth ILS. The seal with overall length/diameter L/D = 0.3 and small tip clearance Cr/D = 0.00133 is supplied with air at T = 298 K and increasing inlet pressure Pin = 0.3–1.3 MPa, while the exit pressure/inlet pressure ratio PR = Pout/Pin is set to range from 0.3 to 0.8. The rotor speed varies from null to 10 krpm (79 m/s max. surface speed). During the tests, instrumentation records the seal mass flow (m˙) and static pressure in each cavity. In parallel, a bulk-flow model (BFM) and a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis predict the flow field and deliver the same performance characteristics, namely leakage and cavity pressures. Both measurements and predictions agree closely (within 5%) and demonstrate that the seal mass flow rate is independent of rotor speed. A modified flow factor Φ¯=m˙T/(PinD1PR2) characterizes best the seal mass flow with a unique magnitude for all pressure conditions, Pin and PR.

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