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International Journal of Rotating Machinery
Volume 2005 (2005), Issue 1, Pages 90-103

Comparative Study of Unsteady Flows in a Transonic Centrifugal Compressor with Vaneless and Vaned Diffusers

TRANE Air Conditioning, American Standard Companies, 3600 Pammel Creek Road, La Crosse 54601, WI, USA

Received 27 March 2003

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


To reduce vibration and noise level, the impeller and diffuser blade numbers inside an industrial compressor are typically chosen without common divisors. The shapes of volutes or collectors in these compressors are also not axis-symmetric. When impeller blades pass these asymmetric structures, the flow field in the compressor is time-dependent and three-dimensional. To obtain a fundamental physical understanding of these three-dimensional unsteady flow fields and assess their impact on the compressor performance, the flow field inside the compressors needs to be studied as a whole to include asymmetric and unsteady interaction between the compressor components. In the current study, a unified three-dimensional numerical model was built for a transonic centrifugal compressor including impeller, diffusers, and volute. HFC 134a was used as the working fluid. The thermodynamic and transport properties of the refrigerant gas were modeled by the Martin-Hou equation of state and power laws, respectively. The three-dimensional unsteady flow field was simulated with a Navier-Stokes solver using the kε turbulent model. The overall performance parameters are obtained by integrating the field quantities. Both the unsteady flow field and the overall performance are analyzed comparatively for each component. The compressor was tested in a water chiller system instrumented to obtain both the overall performance data and local flow-field quantities. The experimental and numerical results agree well. The correlation between the overall compressor performance and local flow-field quantities is defined. The methodology developed and data obtained in these studies can be applied to the centrifugal compressor design and optimization.