Experimental measurements have been made to evaluate the rotordynamic performance of straight-through labyrinth seals under conditions that are realistic for many turbomachines. Both teeth-on-rotor and teeth-on-stator gas seals were tested, each with twelve blades, 173 mm (6.8″) blade diameter, and 102 mm (4″) total length. The nominal blade tip clearance was 0.5 mm (20 mils). The teeth-on-stator seal was tested with the blade tip clearances diverging (in the direction of the flow), uniform, and converging. The teeth-on-rotor seal was tested with uniform clearances. The inlet air pressure to the seals was varied from 1.7 bar to 14.6 bar (25 psi to 200 psig) with the last blade exhausting to the atmosphere. Coastdown tests of all the seals were performed on a rotordynamic test rig to show their effect on synchronous response to imbalance when passing through a 3700 rpm critical speed. For the teeth-on-rotor seal, rap tests at 4500 rpm were also conducted to measure the effective damping coefficient for subsynchronous vibration.

The synchronous response to imbalance was generally increased by all the seals at inlet pressures up to about 11.2 bar (150 psig). The worst case was for the teeth-on-rotor seal at about 2.7 bar (35–45 psi) inlet pressure where the rotor whirl amplitude was increased from .1 mm (3.75 mils, peak to peak) to over .13 mm (5 mils). In most cases the rotor whirl amplitude was slightly decreased at inlet pressures above 13 bar (176 psig).

The teeth-on-rotor seal provided a small amount of damping to attenuate the 61 Hz subsynchronous vibration with the rotor running at 4500 rpm. A computer model which includes both the rotor and housing dynamics was developed to evaluate the possible range of values of the rotordynamic seal coefficients. Simulations show that the effective subsynchronous damping coefficient of the teeth-on-rotor seal ranges from 175 N-s/m at 5.1 bar inlet pressure (1 lb-s/in at 75 psi) to 876 N-s/m at 10.2 bar (5 lb-s/in at 150 psi). This corresponds to a range of 0.3% to 1.4% of critical damping added by the seal for subsynchronous vibration, even though the seal increased the synchronous response at the critical speed. It is shown that the orbit conditions for the synchronous and subsynchronous tests were radically different, as they likely will be in most turbomachines.

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