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Numerical Investigation of the Unsteady Flow Fields in Centrifugal Compressor Diffusers

[+] Author Affiliations
Ahmed Abdelwahab

Praxair Inc., Tonawanda, NY

Paper No. GT2010-22489, pp. 2405-2418; 14 pages
  • ASME Turbo Expo 2010: Power for Land, Sea, and Air
  • Volume 7: Turbomachinery, Parts A, B, and C
  • Glasgow, UK, June 14–18, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: International Gas Turbine Institute
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4402-1 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3872-3
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME


The performance of radial diffusers in centrifugal compressor stages is influenced by the impeller exit flow characteristics as well as the vaneless and semi-vaneless space flow characteristics. Both steady and unsteady flow interactions are present due to the propagation of pressure fields upstream and downstream between the impeller and diffuser. Furthermore, unsteady flow interactions occur when the impeller moving wakes developed due to secondary and tip clearance flows propagate through the diffuser passages. The present study aims at presenting a model that describes the unsteady wake propagation in the centrifugal compressor diffuser using vorticity principles. 3D unsteady Reynolds-Averaged Navier Stokes simulations are performed for both a vaned and a vaneless diffuser centrifugal stage. The simulations are used to examine the mechanism for the unsteady wake flow interactions in the diffuser. The unsteady streamwise vortical structures present in the impeller wakes and their propagation through the diffuser flow field is presented. The effect of the unsteady flow on loss production in the compressor stage is investigated. The velocity perturbations due to these vortical structures are presented. The present study indicates that the impeller wake propagation in the diffuser can be represented by a series of unsteady streamwise vortices superimposed on a uniform flow field. These vortices result in velocity perturbations that take the form of both positive and negative jets in the diffuser.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME



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