Centrifugal pumps operating with gas-liquid flows can undergo severe performance degradation. This can be attributed to an effect of the gas phase on the liquid flow orientation in the pump impeller channels, which induces additional hydraulic losses that negatively affect the delivered head and flow rate. Effort to investigate the effect of many operating parameters on the pump performance under multiphase flows can be found on numerous experimental investigations. Few studies, however, bring together flow visualization to understand the physics behind the behavior of centrifugal pumps with gas-liquid flows. One issue is that pumps involve rotating parts, metallic casing and limited visual access, sometimes making it hard to interpret flow patterns and to understand complex phenomena, such as bubble breakup and coalescence. Such issues usually lead to unsatisfactory image quality, which in turn makes it difficult to extract quantitative data from the obtained images, such as gas volume fraction and bubble size distribution. In an attempt to overcome many difficulties of previous investigations, this work presents an experimental study aimed to visualize gas-liquid flow patterns in a centrifugal rotor prototype using a novel approach. The experimental apparatus uses a plane and transparent rotor, assembled with an intake pipe and a discharge chamber by means of a dynamic seal system that dismisses the use of an enclosing pump casing. This makes possible to use back illumination of the impeller for visualization, which in turn is done by using a camera attached to the impeller axis for filming in a rotating frame of reference. This setup, which is new in the open literature, provides high image contrast and sharpness for clear interpretation of the flow patterns found inside the rotor channels for a wide range of operating conditions. This advantage, in turn, allows using image processing for quantitative assessment of gas volume fraction distributions. Pressure rise versus flow rate curves are measured together to investigate the rotor performance degradation associated with the gas-liquid flow patterns for a range of liquid and gas flow rates. Information obtained with the designed experimental setup at controlled conditions help not just to bring further understanding to the complex phenomena involved with multiphase flows in rotating devices, but also in the direction of validating a numerical model for reliable simulations of gas-liquid flows in centrifugal pumps, which is lacking in the current literature.

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