This paper presents a numerical investigation on the sealing effectiveness and unsteady flow field of a 1.5-stage turbine with the front and aft wheel-space cavities. The sealing effectiveness and flow structure are studied by solving three-dimensional unsteady Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes (URANS) equations and shear stress transfer (SST) turbulence model. The numerical pressure and swirl ratio distributions in cavities with two computational models are compared with experimental data to determine the position of stationary/rotating domain interface. The time-averaged mainstream pressure distribution and sealing effectiveness of the rim seal at the front and aft cavities are studied by the steady and unsteady calculations. The unsteady results agree well with experimental data by comparison of the steady calculations. The effects of coolant flow rates on the sealing effectiveness and the flow field of the rim seal at the front and aft cavities are investigated. The obtained results show that the sealing effectiveness of the rim seal at the aft cavity is much larger than that of the rim seal at the front cavity at the same coolant flow rate. The less mainstream pressure fluctuation near the aft rim seal clearance and the clockwise vortex due to the pumping effect in the aft rim seal leads to this result. The mainstream pressure fluctuation downstream of the blade and the sealing effectiveness of the rim seal at the aft cavity under five operating conditions are computed. It shows that the square root of the mainstream pressure fluctuation amplitude downstream of the blade is proportional to the mainstream flow rate. The increase of the mainstream flow results in gradual decrease of the sealing effectiveness of the rim seal at the aft cavity.

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