Non-Contacting Finger Seal Piston for Oil Less Engines 2020-01-1096
The current quest to reduce CO2 emissions combined to new technologies has sparked an interest in revisiting radically different engine configuration concepts, such as adiabatic and split-cycle engines. To achieve the full potential of both concepts, the combustion chamber must be sealed without lubricating oil. A promising approach that has yet remained elusive, is to lubricate the piston-liner interface with gases. This paper explores the concept of using non-contacting finger seals to seal piston engines combustion chambers. The finger seals, made of a gas-lubricated pad at the end of a flexible beam, are fixed on a rotating piston that uses the centrifugal force to close the piston-liner gap. A physics-based fluid-structure model is developed to predict finger displacements and sealing performances. The model shows that the radial displacement of the fingers naturally creates a convergent profile with the liner that generates sufficient aerodynamic pressure to maintain a micrometer gap that prevents the piston to contact the liner. The results also show that the achievable leakage area would be similar to that of Wankel rotary engine and friction losses would be negligible compared to those of conventional piston rings. On the other hand, the study reveals challenges that will need to be addressed in order that finger seals be practical in engines, such as the finger torsion, dynamic behavior when exposed to bore distortion as well as the manufacturing tolerances required to ensure contact-free operation.