Non-synchronous excitation under low volume operation is a major risk to the mechanical integrity of last stage moving blades (LSMBs) in low-pressure (LP) steam turbines. These vibrations are often induced by a rotating aerodynamic instability similar to rotating stall in compressors. Currently extensive validation of new blade designs is required to clarify whether they are subjected to the risk of not admissible blade vibration. Such tests are usually performed at the end of a blade development project. If resonance occurs a costly redesign is required, which may also lead to a reduction of performance. It is therefore of great interest to be able to predict correctly the unsteady flow phenomena and their effects.

Detailed unsteady pressure measurements have been performed in a single stage model steam turbine operated with air under ventilation conditions. 3D CFD has been applied to simulate the unsteady flow in the air model turbine. It has been shown that the simulation reproduces well the characteristics of the phenomena observed in the tests. This methodology has been transferred to more realistic steam turbine multi stage environment. The numerical results have been validated with measurement data from a multi stage model LP steam turbine operated with steam. Measurement and numerical simulation show agreement with respect to the global flow field, the number of stall cells and the intensity of the rotating excitation mechanism. Furthermore, the air model turbine and model steam turbine numerical and measurement results are compared. It is demonstrated that the air model turbine is a suitable vehicle to investigate the unsteady effects found in a steam turbine.

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