An improved understanding of a new category of stepped labyrinth seals, which feature a new “annular groove,” was obtained. A water leakage and flow visualization test facility of very large scale (relative to a typical seal) was utilized. Flow visualization experiments using a new method and digital facilities for capturing and editing digital images from an 8 mm video were conducted. The presence of an annular groove machined into the stator land increases the leakage resistance by up to 26 percent for the cases considered here. Tracer particles show the degree of throughflow path penetration into the annular groove (i.e., serpentining), which gives the largest and the smallest leakage resistance improvement over that of the corresponding conventional stepped seal.

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