Brush seals are widely used as flexible seals for rotor-stator and stator-stator gaps in power generation turbo-machinery like steam turbines, gas turbines, generators and aircraft engines. Understanding the force interactions between a brush seal bristle pack and the rotor is important for avoiding overheating and rotor dynamic instabilities caused by excessive brush seal forces. Brush seal stiffness (i.e. brush seal force per unit circumferential length per unit incursion of the rotor) is usually measured and characterized at atmospheric pressure conditions. However, the inter-bristle forces, the blow-down forces and the friction forces between the backplate and the bristle pack change in the presence of a pressure loading, thereby changing the stiffness of the brush seal in the presence of this pressure loading. Furthermore, brush seals exhibit different hysteresis behavior under different pressure loading conditions. Understanding the increased brush seal stiffness and the increased hysteresis behavior of brush seals in the presence of a pressure loading is important for designing brush seals for higher pressure applications. In this article, we present the development of a test fixture for measuring the stiffness of brush seals subjected to a pressure loading. The fixture allows for measurement of the bristle pack forces in the presence of a pressure loading on the seal while the rotor is incrementally pushed (radially) into the bristle pack. Following the development of this test fixture, we present representative test results on three sample seals to show the trends in brush seal stiffness as the pressure loading is increased. Specifically, we study the effect of different brush seal design parameters on the stiffness of brush seals over a wide range of pressure loadings. These test data can be used for developing predictive models for brush seal stiffness under pressure loading. Furthermore, we demonstrate the utility of this fixture in studying the hysteresis exhibited by brush seals along with the importance of the backplate pressure balance feature present in several brush seal designs. The test results validate the bilinear force-displacement curves previously reported in the literature.

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