Effects of tip clearance on through flows and performance of a centrifugal compressor impeller with six different tip clearances were numerically studied using CFX-TASCflow. The flow structures inside the impeller of a centrifugal compressor were visualized observing streamlines starting the leading edge of blade tips. The calculated results at the impeller exit were circumferential averaged for quantitative discussion. Flow, pressure and entropy contours at the impeller exit were largely influenced by the tip leakage flow. Tip clearance effect on the performance was decomposed into inviscid and viscous components using one-dimensional relations expressed in terms of the specific work reduction and the additional entropy generation. Both inviscid and viscous effects affected performance to similar extent, while efficiency drop was mainly influenced by viscous loss of the tip leakage flow. Performance reduction and efficiency drop due to tip clearance was proportional to the ratio of tip clearance to blade height. A simple model suggested in the present study predicts performance and efficiency drop quite successfully.

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