Current gas leak rate prediction methods for elastomeric face seals rely heavily on the assumption that all leakage is permeation, rather than leakage across the seal interface [1–3]. To date, there has been no definitive evidence that this is indeed the case. It is essential to investigate the magnitude of interface leakage to facilitate the validation of the current compressible permeation model and to quantify the interfacial leakage for the design of future state-of-the-art face seals. To this end, a series of leak rate experiments is presented on a square-ring seal, manufactured from silicone elastomer S0383-70. The unique experimental design affords the ability to quantify both a metal-elastomer interface, as well as an elastomer-elastomer interface. The experiments utilized two square-ring test specimens, each with a common width but different in height. The test apparatus consisted of stainless steel platens, near-hermetic plumbing, programmable environmental chamber, and the required instrumentation. The initial data reduction was accomplished by the mass point leak rate technique; whereas mass was calculated through measurements of gas pressure, temperature, and volume and a regression analysis yielded the leak rate of the seal. A secondary reduction of the leak rates in the unique experimental configuration further distinguished the total leakage into permeation and interface leak components, accomplished through the algebraic solution of the design of experiments guided matrix. Results showed that, with modest contact pressure, permeation was the largest component of the total leakage. In addition, the interface leakage for the various seal mating conditions (i.e., seal-on-flange, seal-on-seal) was quantified for the contact pressure investigated. Contrary to previous conclusions, the interface leakages were found to be significant. In the application of space docking seals, a common example of elastomeric face seals, the significance of quantifying the interfacial leakages guides the design of the seal for incomplete seal compression conditions as well has for the androgynous docking configuration.

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