During the last decades a large effort has been made to continuously improve turbomachine efficiency. Besides the optimization of the primary flow path, also the secondary flow losses have been reduced considerably, due to the use of more efficient seals. Brush seals, as a compliant contacting filament seal, have become an attractive alternative to conventional labyrinth seals in the field of aircraft engines as well as in stationary gas and steam turbines. The aim of today’s research related to brush seals is to understand the characteristics and their connections, in order to be able to make performance predictions, and to ensure the reliability over a defined operating period. It is known that inevitable frictional contacts lead to an abrasive wear on the rotor side as well as on the bristle side. The wear situation is essentially influenced by the resulting contact force at the seal-to-rotor interface during the operating time. This contact force depends on the seal’s blow down capability, which is mainly determined by the geometrical design of the bristle pack, e.g. the axial inclination of the investigated seal design, in combination with the design and material of the surrounding parts, as well as the thermal boundary conditions. For realistic investigations with representative circumferential velocities the TU Braunschweig operates a specially developed steam test rig which enables live steam investigations under varying operating conditions up to 50 bar and 450 °C. Wear measurements and the determination of seal performance characteristics, such as blow down and bristle stiffness, were enabled by an additional test facility using pressurized cold air up to 8 bar as working fluid.
This paper presents the chronological wear development on both rotor and seal side, in a steam test lasting 25 days respectively 11 days. Interruptions after stationary and transient intervals were made in order to investigate the wear situation. Two different seal arrangements, a single tandem seal and a two-stage single seal arrangement, using different seal elements were considered. The results clearly show a continuous wear development and that the abrasive wear of the brush seal and rotor is mainly due to the transient test operation, particularly by enforced contacts during shaft excursions. Despite the increasing wear to the brushes, all seals have shown a functioning radial-adaptive behavior over the whole test duration with a sustained seal performance. Thereby, it could be shown that the two-stage arrangement displays a load shift during transients, leading to a balanced loading and unloading status for the two single brush seals. From load sharing and in comparison with the wear data of the tandem seal arrangement, it can be derived that the two-stage seal is less prone to wear. However, the tandem seal arrangement, bearing the higher pressure difference within one configuration, shows a superior sealing performance under constant load, i.e. under stationary conditions.