The basic equations are derived for compressible flow in a stepped labyrinth gas seal. The flow is assumed to be completely turbulent in the circumferential direction where the friction factor is determined by the Blasius relation. Linearized zeroth and first-order perturbation equations are developed for small motion about a centered position by an expansion in the eccentricity ratio. The zeroth-order pressure distribution is found by satisfying the leakage equation while the circumferential velocity distribution is determined by satisfying the momentum equations. The first order equations are solved by a separation of variables solution. Integration of the resultant pressure distribution along and around the seal defines the reaction force developed by the seal and the corresponding dynamic coefficients. The results of this analysis are presented in the form of a parametric study, since there are no known experimental data for the rotordynamic coefficients of stepped labyrinth gas seals. The parametric study investigates the relative rotordynamic stability of convergent, straight and divergent stepped labyrinth gas seals. The results show that, generally, the divergent seal is more stable, rotordynamically, than the straight or convergent seals. The results also show that the teeth-on-stator seals are not always more stable, rotordynamically, then the teeth-on-rotor seals as was shown by experiment by Childs and Scharrer (1986b) for a 15 tooth seal.

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