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CHINESEJOURNALOFMECHANICALENGINEERING

Vol.*,aNo. *,a****

DOI:10.3901/CJME.****.**.***,availableonlineatwww.springerlink.comwww.cjmenet.comwww.cjmenet.com.cn

FlowDynamicsofaSpiralgrooveDrygasSeal
WANGBing1,2,ZHANGHuiqiang1,2,*,and CAOHongjun1,2
1SchoolofAerospace,TsinghuaUniversity,Beijing100084, China
2Beijing3EEnergyKeyLaboratory, TsinghuaUniversity,Beijing100084, China
Received February23,2011revised September6,2011 accepted August,2012

Abstract: The drygassealhasbeen widelyusedindifferent industries. Withincreased spinspeedof the rotatorshaft,turbulenceoccurs


inthegasfilmbetweenthestatorandrotorsealfaces.Forthemicroscaleflowinthegasfilmandgrooves,turbulencecanchangethe
pressure distribution of the gas film. Hence, the seal performance is influenced. However, turbulence effects and methods for their
evaluationarenotconsideredintheexistingindustrialdesignsofdrygasseal.Thepresentpapernumerically obtains the turbulentflow
fields of aspiralgroove drygas seal to analyze turbulence effects on seal performance. The direct numerical simulation (DNS) and
ReynoldsaveragedNavierStokes(RANS)methodsareutilizedtopredictthevelocityfieldpropertiesinthegroovesandgasfilm.The
key performanceparameter,openforce,isobtainedby integrating thepressuredistribution,andtheobtained resultisingoodagreement
with the experimental data of other researchers. Very large velocity gradients are found in the sealing gas film because of the
geometricaleffectsofthegrooves.Considering turbulenceeffects,thecalculationresultsshowthatboththegasfilmpressureandopen
forcedecrease. The RANSmethodunderestimatestheperformance,comparedwiththeDNS. The solutionoftheconventionalReynolds
lubrication equation without turbulence effects suffers fromsignificant calculation errors and a small application scope. The present
study helps elucidate thephysicalmechanismof thehydrodynamiceffectsof groovesforimproving andoptimizing theindustrialdesign
orsealfacepatternofa drygasseal.
Keywords: flowdynamics, spiralgroovedrygasseal, turbulenceeffects,directnumerical simulation (DNS),
ReynoldsaveragedNavierStokes(RANS)method, Reynoldslubricationequation

1 Introduction*
Asaformofnoncontactingmechanicalsealtechnology,
the drygas seal has found extensive applications in
different industrial departments. A drygas seal performs
well interms ofless frictionand wear, longer service life,
as well asreliability[15]. However, knowledge on theflow
dynamicspropertiesofasealinggasfilmislimited.Asthe
spin speed of a rotator shaft increases, turbulence arises
fromtheflowsystemand affectsthe sealperformance.
Spiral grooves are functional configurations in arotator
face with the purpose of improving performance[67]. The
performances of drygas seals are mostly calculated using
the narrow spiralgroove theory proposed by
MUIJDERMAN[1]. The pressure distributions of the ring
face are also approximated using this method. The
performance parameters, such as open force and leakage
quantity, are estimated based on an integration of the
surface pressure[814]. Analyses of gasfilm properties are
usually simplified by solutions of the twodimensional
Reynoldslubricationequation[79].Thephysicalvariablesin
* Correspondingauthor.Email:zhanghq@tsinghua.edu.cn
This project is supported by the Scientific Research Foundation for
ReturnedScholars,MinistryofEducationofChina
ChineseMechanicalEngineeringSociety andSpringerVerlagBerlinHeidelberg 2012

the gasfilm direction are all represented by the seal face


configuration factor h. The definition of h is discussed in
thesucceedingsections.
However,thesolutionsofboththenarrowspiralgroove
theory and the Reynolds equation supply only
twodimensional results. These results are useful for
performance estimations and preliminary designs, but are
not accurate in elucidating the flow dynamics in the gap
betweentwosealfaces.Consequently,anaccuratestudyof
flow fields is needed for performance designs and
optimizationstoenablethequantitative applications of the
drygasseal technologyindifferentindustries.
Todate,nodirectnumericalsimulation(DNS)studyhas
been conducted on a drygas seal. RUAN[11] studied the
effects of a velocityslip condition on seal performance
using a finite element numerical solution of the Reynolds
equation. FUKUI, et al[14], derived a Reynolds equation
usingaPoiseuilleflowratecorrection,andbuiltadatabase
for the theoretic analysis of drygas seals. PENG, et al[15],
proposed corrected lubrication equations applicable to
nanoscaleflows.Theyanalyzedthetribologyproblemsof
hard disk magnetic head surfaces. WANG, et al[16],
performedanumericalsolutionoftheReynoldsequationto
study microscale effects on the flow properties and seal
performance in a drygas seal system. Nevertheless, all
these aforementioned investigations have never reported

YWANGBing,etal:AnalysisofSpiralgrooveDrygasSealbyDirectNumericalSimulation

detailed informationonthe flowfieldsindrygasseals.The


T
importance of turbulence effects on the sealing
F(V ) = 0, t xx , t xy , t xz ,
performance has alsonotbeendescribed.
T
G(V ) = 0, t yx , t yy , t yz , ,
The present paper numerically mimics a
T
threedimensional flow in a spiralgroove drygas seal
H(V ) = 0, t zx , t zy , t zz ,,
system at a steadystate mechanical equilibrium. Both the
DNS and Reynoldsaveraged NavierStokes (RANS)
simulation with a twoequation turbulence model are wheret xx , t xy , t xz , t yx , t yy , t yz , t zx , t zy ,tzz are the viscosity
employed to study the flow dynamics. Comparisons stressesand
between the DNS results and solutions of the classical
t xx = l (u x + v y + wz ) + 2 m ux,
Reynoldslubricationequationarealsopresented.
t xy = t yx = m (u y + vx),

2 Physical ModelandNumerical Methods


2.1 Physical model
Fig. 1 shows the schematic diagram of the physical
modeloftherotatorringinadrygasseal.Theringfaceis
grooved and rotates on its shaft. In a mechanical
equilibriumcondition,thefluidfillsthegroovestoadepth
h, as well as the gap between the rotator land and stator
facetoadepth .Theangular velocity oftherotator is.
The radii of the shaft and rotator ring are ro and r2,
respectively. The radius of the groove root is r1. The area
ratio of land to groove is b =b1 / b, and the clearance
ratio is g = (d +h) / d .The ratio of the seal pressure is
e = po / pi.

t xz = t zx = m (u z + wx),
t yy = l (u x + v y + wz ) + 2 m vy,
t yz = t zy = m ( vz + wy),
t zz = l (u x + v y + wz ) + 2m wz
wherel = -2 / 3m. Thepresentstudyadoptstheisothermal
gas model, wherein the fluid agrees with the relationship
below:
p

=RgTref.

(2)

The computational coordinates are usually used in the


calculation process, whose relationship with the Cartesian
coordinatesisasfollows:
x = x ( x, y, z),

h = h ( x, y, z),

z = z ( x, y, z ).

(3)

For the cylindrical coordinates, the above transform


becomes
x = r cos q , y = r sin q , z = z.

Fig.1. Schematic diagram ofphysicalmodel

2.2 Governing equations


TheconservativegoverningequationsintheCartesian
coordinatesreadas:
Wt + Fx(E) + G y(E) + H z(E) = Fx(V ) + G y(V ) +Hz(V).

(4)

2.3 Turbulencemodel
A twoequationkturbulencemodelisusedtoclose
the RANSequations.This modelassumesthattheturbulent
dynamicviscosityislinkedtotheturbulencekineticenergy
andturbulentviscosityviatheratio:

(1)

m T =

rk
.
w

(5)

whereW =( r , r u , r v, r w) aretheconservativevariables,
is the fluid density, and u, v, as well as w are the
The turbulent kinetic energy k and turbulent frequency
velocities. The inviscid fluxesare asfollows:
equations, respectively,are
T

F(E) = r u , r u 2 + p, r uv, r uw ,
T
G(E) = r v, r uv, r v 2 + p , r vw ,
T
H(E) = r w, r uw, r vw, r w 2 + p .
The inviscidfluxesreadas:
T

( r k ) ( rV jk)

+
=
t
x j
x j

m + m T k + P - b r kw , (6)
k

s k x j

CHINESEJOURNALOFMECHANICALENGINEERING
( rw ) ( rVjw )

+
=
t
x j
x j

m + m T w + a w P - brw 2,
k

s w x j
k

(7)

where Pk istheproductionrateofturbulence,
V V V
Pk = m T i + k i .
xk
xk
xi

(8)

Themodelconstantsaregivenby s k = 2, s w = 2, a =
5/9, b =0.075,and b = 0.09.
2.4 Discrete methodsandcomputationgrids
The governing equations are discretized by the finite
volume method. The convective terms (inviscid flux) are
discretizedbyasecondorderupwindscheme.Theviscous
terms are approximated by a secondorder central scheme.
Fig. 2 shows the computational domain and the grid
system.

Table 1. Calculationparameters
Geometryparameter
Parameter
Innerradius ro/ mm
Outerradius r2/ mm
Groove root radius r1/ mm
Spiralangel a/ ()
Ratioofgroovetoland
Groovenumber n
Groovedepth h/ m

Value
58.42
77.78
69.0
15
1
12
5.0

Operationparameter
Parameter

Value
2.05
3.05
5.03
4.585 2
0.101 3
10 380

Filmdepth / m
Sealedmedium pressure po/ MPa
Environmentalmedium pressure pi/ MPa
Spinspeed nr/ (r min1)
Mediumproperty
Parameter

Value
Air
300

Medium
Temperature T/ K
Dynamicsviscosity / (kg m s1)

1.8 105

The Knudsen number, commonly used to distinguish


theflowmicroeffect,isdefinedas:
Kn=

m 2RT0
ph

(9)

where R is the gas constant (287 J kg1 K1), T0 is


referencetemperature(300K), and pisthesealingpressure.
Knislessthan0.001.Therefore,thecontinuumassumption
of fluid mechanics still prevails. The nonslipvelocity
conditionsareemployedatthewalls:
(a) Computation domain andboundaryconditions

V( r , q , z) z=0 = 0(atthestatorface),

V( r , q , z ) z = h or z =d + h = 0(attherotatorface).

(10)

The static pressure boundary condition is specified in the


radialdirection,
p ( r , q , z ) r = r = pi , p ( r , q , z ) r = r = po.
o

(b) Computationgrids(scaled1000:1intheaxialdirection)

Fig.2. Computation domain,boundaryconditions andgrid

Orthogonalgridsareusedinthesimulation.Therearea
total of 1800000 grid cells.

(11)

Inthecircumferentialdirection,thecomputationdomain
is periodic, and the periodic boundary conditions are
specifiedas:
V ( r , q , z ) q =q =V( r , q , z ) q =q
0

0+ 2 /n

2.5 Boundaryconditions

k ( r , q , z ) q =q = k ( r , q , z) q =q + 2 / n ,

0
0

ThecalculationparametersareshowninTable1.The

w ( r , q , z ) q =q = w ( r , q , z ) q =q + 2 /n .

sealed medium is air, the temperature is 300 K, and the


0
0

5
1
viscosity is 1.810 kg m s . The inner pressure is
0.101MPa(1atm), andtheouteris4.5852MPa.Theshaft TheboundaryconditionsarealsoshowninFig. 2.
spinspeedis10 380 r/min.Thegroovespiralangle is15.

(12a)

(12b)

YWANGBing,etal:AnalysisofSpiralgrooveDrygasSealbyDirectNumericalSimulation

reason for the open force being under prediction in the


designof adrygassealbasedona solutionoftheReynolds
lubricationequation.Theresultalsoindicatesthatsolutions
of the Reynolds lubrication equation are not sufficiently
3
3

accuratetoinvestigatetheflowdynamicsinadrygasseal.
rph p 1 ph p
( ph)
+
= 6w r
.
(13)

These solutions cannotreveal the effects of turbulence on


r m r r q m q
q
theperformanceof adrygassealsystem.
The velocity field distributions obtained via DNS are
The angle velocity of the rotator is w =2p nr,nr is the
showninFig.4.Verylargevelocitygradientsarefoundin
shaftspinspeed,isthefluiddynamicsviscosity,andhis
the gas film. There exist large radial and circumferential
afunctionof the filmdepth.
velocity componentsinthe groovesbecauseofthepumping
The Reynolds equation uses a simplified
effects of thegrooves. As therotatorring spins,the fluids
twodimensional model, in which the rotator ring face
are pumped into the grooves. When the pumpedin fluids
geometry is represented by a gasfilm depth distribution
meet the walls of the grooves, they decelerate. Their
functiondefined as
dynamicpressurehead(kineticenergy)isalsotransformed
into the hydrostatic head. The pressure of the fluid in the
d + h, groove,
h( r , q )=
(14) groovesisthenenhanced.
d , land.
2.6 SolutionoftheReynoldslubricationequation
The steady governing equation of the drygas seal in
cylindricalcoordinatesiswrittenas

TheaboveReynoldslubricationequationis numerically
solvedby thefinite differencemethod[12].

3 ResultsandDiscussions
3.1 Flowdynamics analysis
Fig. 3 shows the pressure distribution in the gas film.
Thegasfilmis3.05 mmindepth.Theresultsarecompared
with those obtained by solving the Reynolds lubrication
equation.Ahigher pressureis obtainedattherootregions
of the grooves, which is about 34% higher than the outer
environmental pressure po.

(a) Inthegasfilm

(b) Inthegrooves

Fig.4. Velocity magnitude contoursobtained viaDNS (m/s)


(a) DNS result

Fig.5showsthestaticpressurecontoursinthegrooves.
The static pressurereaches thehighestlevel at theroot of
thegrooves.

(b)Solutionof the Reynoldsequation

Fig.3. Staticpressuredistributioninthegasfilm (MPa)

Theincrease in thepressure is lower in the casesolved


bytheReynoldsequationthaninthatbyDNS.Thisisthe

Fig.5. Staticpressurecontours inthegrooves


obtainedviaDNS (MPa)

CHINESEJOURNALOFMECHANICALENGINEERING
The flow Reynolds number in the drygas seal flow is
definedas
Re =

rVdd rw ( r2 + ro) / 2d
=
,
m
m

(15)

Fig. 8 presentsthecontours ofturbulent eddy viscosity.


Fig.9showstheturbulencekineticenergyinthegasfilm.
Thereareverylargegradientsinthegasfilm,bothforthe
distributionsof viscosityandturbulencekineticenergy.

whereVd isthelinevelocityofthesealface.Ifthegasfilm
is3.05 mm,theReynoldsnumberis940.
Fig.6showsthestaticpressureandvelocitycontoursin
the gas film from the RANS simulation. Considering the
turbulence effects, the maximum pressure of the gas film
decreases, which implies that the fluid hydrodynamics
effectgeneratedbythegroovesisdecreased.
Fig.8. Eddyviscosity distribution inthegas filmsimulated
by theRANSmethod(mPa s)

(a) Pressurefield(MPa)

Fig.9. Turbulencekineticenergy distribution inthegasfilm


simulatedby the RANSmethod (m2/s2)

Fig.6. Pressureandvelocity magnitude contours


inthegasfilmsimulatedby the RANSmethod

Verylarge velocity gradientsarefoundto still existinthe


gasfilm, evenwhentheflow isregardedas a turbulentone.
Fig. 7 shows that thevelocitydecreases in the grooves,
compared with those shown in Fig. 4(b). This result
indicates that the pumping effects are reduced by the
turbulence.

Expermentaldata
DNS
RANS
Reynoldsequation

6.0
5.5
5.0
4.5
4.0

Pressurep/MPa

(b)Velocity field(m/s)

3.2 Performance analysis


Thepressurealong theradialdirection is plotted in Fig.
10. The DNS results agree well with experimental data
from literature, whereas the solutions of the Reynolds
equation are less accurate. The RANS method predicts a
lowerpeakvalueof thegasfilm pressure.

3.5
3.0
2.5
2.0
1.5
1.0
0.5
0.0
58

60

62

64

66

68

70

72

74

76

78

80

Radiusr/mm

Fig.10. Comparisonof static pressures intheradial direction


(filmdepth is 3.05 m)

Fig.7. Velocitycontoursin the groovessimulated


by theRANSmethod(m/s)

Using the calculated pressure fields, the open force can


be calculatedas

YWANGBing,etal:AnalysisofSpiralgrooveDrygasSealbyDirectNumericalSimulation
Fo =

2
0

r2

ro

prdrdq .

(16)

designandperformanceanalysisofdrygasseal.
References

The calculated open forces are compared with the


experimental results in Table 2. The DNS results are in
good agreement with the measurements. The result via a
solution of the Reynolds equation is lower than both the
experimentaldataand DNSresults.

[1]
[2]

[3]

Table 2. Comparisons of sealperformances


intermsoftheopen force
Film
depth
/m

Experime
ntaldata

2.05
3.05
5.03

40 711.8
33 168.7
29 569.2

Openforce Fo/N
Resultswith Resultviathe
Results via
turbulence
Reynolds
DNS
model
equation
35 172.2
34 222.3
29 230.1
31 503.9
30 525.8
30 941.3
29 366.0
27 198.1
31 688.7

Both the experimental measurements and DNS results


show that the open force increases with the film depth.
However,theReynoldsequationsolutionshowsaninverse
variation.
Due to oversimplification, the conventional Reynolds
lubrication equation suffers from significant calculation
errors and a smallapplicationscope.Therefore,the solution
oftheReynoldsequationisrestrictedtoacertainextentin
guiding the design and analysis of the performance of a
drygasseal.
According to Eq. (15), the flow Reynolds number
increaseswiththefilmdepth.Theeffectsofturbulenceon
sealperformancearestrengthenedastheReynoldsnumber
increases, as shown in Table 2. Given that viscosity
increases in largeReynoldsnumber turbulent flows, the
pumpingeffectsofthegroovesareweakened.Thepressure
ofthegasfilmislowered,andconsequently,the openforce
isdecreased.

[4]

[5]

[6]

[7]

[8]

[9]

[10]
[11]

[12]

4 Conclusions
[13]

(1) Theflowdynamicsof aspiralgroovedrygassealare


numerically investigated by DNS and the RANS method.
In the RANS simulation, thetwoequation k turbulence
modelisconsidered.The calculatedperformanceparameter
of the open force is in good agreement with the
experimentaldata.
(2) The velocity and pressure, obtained in the grooves
and in the gas film, demonstrate the dynamic pressure or
pumpingeffectsbythegroovesinthedrygassealsystem.
(3) Very large gradients of velocity, turbulent viscosity,
and turbulencekineticenergy arefoundinthegasfilm. The
effects of turbulence on drygas seal performance are
strengthenedwithincreasedReynoldsnumber,becausethe
viscosity increases in large Reynolds number turbulent
flows.
(4) The solution of the Reynolds lubrication equation
under predicts the gas film pressure, and hence, the
performanceparameters,soitsapplicationislimitedinthe

[14]

[15]

[16]

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Biographicalnotes
WANGBing,bornin1977,iscurrentlyanassociateprofessorat
SchoolofAerospace,TsinghuaUniversity,China.Hereceivedhis
PhD degree from the same university in 2005. His research
interests include fluid dynamics, power and propulsion
technologies, aswellas CFD.
Tel:+861062772112Email: wbing@tsinghua.edu.cn
ZHANG Huiqiang, born in 1966, is currently an associate

CHINESEJOURNALOFMECHANICALENGINEERING
professor at Tsinghua University, China. He received his PhD
degree from the same university in 1997. His research interests
includepowerandpropulsiontechnologies, aswellascombustion
andnumericalheattransfers.
Tel:+861062772112Email: zhanghq@tsinghua.edu.cn

CAO Hongjun, born in 1984, is currently a PhD candidate at


School of Aerospace, Tsinghua University, China. His research
interests include power and propulsion technology, as well as
combustionandnumericalheattransfers.
Tel:+861062781621Email:chj06@mails.tsinghua.edu.cn