This paper reports on the latest phase of the development of a new rotating machinery sealing technology, which was a successful seal test in a high temperature steam test facility at TU Brauschweig in Germany.
The “Aerostatic Seal” is a dynamic clearance seal that is capable of maintaining very small clearances with a rotor and has the potential for a wide range of rotating machinery applications. It has been developed in recent years at Durham University, UK, in collaboration with a major OEM, with a focus on steam turbine sealing, and has previously been reported on in a number of ASME Turbo Expo papers. Previous work has reported on the design tool, and two air test facilities; testing in steam addressed the effect of high temperature components and the working fluid, and was an opportunity to verify the design system.
The seal is a development of a retractable gland seal and so in a low load condition it is retracted from the rotor with a large rotor clearance and then when the pressure ratio is sufficient moves to an operational small clearance. At its operational clearance the seal is capable of moving with rotor vibrations which means the design clearance can be smaller than any expected rotor movement. The benefits include a significant reduction in leakage when compared to conventional sealing technologies and also the ability to react to large transients or thermal growths caused by rapid changes in machine loads and speeds. The seal is shown to operate well in this environment and this work moves the technology closer to deployment in industry.