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Limitations of a State-of-the-Art Numerical Modelling Framework for Two-Phase Flow in Aero-Engine Air/Oil Separators

[+] Author Affiliations
Thiago Piazera de Carvalho, Hervé P. Morvan, David Hargreaves

University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Laura Cordes, Corina Höfler

University of Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany

Paper No. GT2016-56633, pp. V001T01A017; 12 pages
  • ASME Turbo Expo 2016: Turbomachinery Technical Conference and Exposition
  • Volume 1: Aircraft Engine; Fans and Blowers; Marine
  • Seoul, South Korea, June 13–17, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: International Gas Turbine Institute
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4968-2
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


The development and limitations of a numerical modelling framework applied to an aero-engine air/oil separator are presented here. Oil enters the device in the form of dispersed droplets and primary separation occurs by centrifuging larger droplets towards the outer walls, whereas secondary separation occurs by partially coalescing and centrifuging smaller droplets within a porous material, namely an open-cell metal foam. The work described here is part of a study led jointly by the University of Nottingham (UNott) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in the Engine Breakthrough Components and Subsystems (E-BREAK) project. The main objectives for UNott have been to define a CFD methodology able to provide an accurate representation of the air flow behaviour and a qualitative assessment of the oil capture within the air/oil separator. The feasibility of using the current state-of-the-art modelling framework is assessed. Experimental measurements of the overall pressure drop and oil capture performed at KIT are used to validate the simulations. The methodology presented here overcomes some limitations and simplifications present in previous studies. A novel macroscopic model for the secondary oil separation phenomena within metal foams is presented. Experiments and simulations were conducted for three different separator configurations, one without a metal foam, and two with metal foams of different pore sizes. For each configuration, a variation of air flow, shaft speed and droplet size was conducted. The focus was on the separation of droplets with a diameter smaller than 10 μm. Single-phase air flow simulation results showed that overall pressure drop increases with both increased shaft speed and air flow, largely in agreement with the experiments. Oil capture results proved to be more difficult to be captured by the numerical model. One of the limitations of the modelling set-up employed here is not capable of capturing droplet re-entrainment due to accumulation of oil inside the metal foam, which is believed to play a significant role in the separation phenomena.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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