U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recently sponsored research programs to develop megawatt scale supercritical CO2 (sCO2) turbine for use in concentrated solar power (CSP) and fossil based applications. To achieve the CSP goal of power at $0.06/kW-hr LCOE and energy conversion efficiency > 50%, the sCO2 turbine relies critically on extremely low leakage film riding seals like dry gas seal (DGS). Although DGS technology has been used in other applications before. making it successful for stringent conditions of an sCO2 turbo-expander is challenging. This paper presents results from a multi-scale coupled physics model that predicts the performance of DGS under a typical sCO2 turbine mission cycle and addresses some of the risks specific to operation in sCO2. Real gas equations of state are incorporated in the models to capture large discontinuities in fluid properties close to the critical point. A novel experimental setup is developed to observe and characterize transition of CO2 through liquid-vapor and supercritical phases. Coupled fluid-structure-thermal interaction model investigates the effect of aerodynamic and thermal perturbations on the structural and rotordynamic instabilities. Dynamic instabilities arising from sonic transition in thin sCO2 film of DGS pose additional challenges while the large surface roughness changes due to sCO2 corrosion warrant further design considerations. Effectiveness of features like spiral grooves in converting fluid momentum into pressure rise in the thin film and also in achieving local flow reversals is investigated. Effect of various design features on the optimal performance is quantified and insights for a successful DGS operation in a sCO2 turbomachine are provided.

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