In the late 1970’s, Benckert and Wachter (Technical University Stuttgart) tested labyrinth seals using air as the test media and measured direct and cross-coupled stiffness coefficients. They reported the following results: (1) Fluid pre-swirl in the direction of shaft rotation creates destabilizing cross-coupled stiffness coefficients, and (2) Effective swirl brakes at the inlet to the seal can markedly reduce the cross-coupled stiffness coefficients, in many cases reducing them to zero. In recent years, “negative-swirl” swirl brakes have been employed that attempt to reverse the circumferential direction of inlet flow, changing the sign of the cross-coupled stiffness coefficients and creating stabilizing stiffness forces. This study presents test results for a 16-tooth labyrinth seal with positive inlet preswirl (in the direction of shaft rotation) for the following inlet conditions: (1) No swirl brakes, (2) Straight, conventional swirl brakes, and (3) Negative-swirl swirl brakes. The negative-swirl swirl-brake designs were developed based on CFD predictions. Tests were conducted at 10.2, 15.35, and 20.2 krpm with 70 bars of inlet pressure for pressure ratios of 0.3, 0.4, 0.5.

Test results include leakage and rotordynamic coefficients. In terms of leakage, the negative-swirl brake configuration leaked the least, followed by the conventional brake, followed by the no-brake design. Normalized to the negative-swirl brake configuration, the conventional-brake and no-brake configurations mass flow rate were greater, respectively, by factors of 1.04 and 1.09.

The direct stiffness coefficients are negative but small, consistent with past experience. The conventional swirl brake drops the destabilizing cross-coupled stiffness coefficients k by a factor of about 0.8 as compared to the no-brake results. The negative-swirl brake produces a change in sign of k with an appreciable magnitude; hence, the stability of forwardly-precessing modes would be enhanced.

In descending order, the direct damping coefficients C are: no-swirl, negative-swirl, conventional-swirl. Normalized in terms of the no-swirl case, C for the negative and conventional brake designs are, respectively, 0.7 and 0.6 smaller.

The effective damping Ceff combines the effect of k and C. Ceff is large and positive for the negative-swirl configuration and near zero for the no-brake and conventional-brake designs.

The present results for a negative-brake design are very encouraging for both eye-packing seals (where conventional swirl brakes have been previously employed) and division-wall and balance-piston seals where negative shunt injection has been employed.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.