The relationship between pump characteristic instabilities and internal flow was investigated in a mixed flow pump with specific speed of 700 (min−1 m3/min, m) or 1.72 (non-dimensional) by using a commercial CFD code and a dynamic PIV (DPIV) measurement. This pump has two positive slopes of a head-flow characteristic at the flow rates of about 60%Qopt and 82%Qopt. In the authors’ previous study, it was clarified that the characteristic instability at 82%Qopt is caused by the diffuser rotating stall (DRS) and the backflow near the hub of the vaned diffuser plays an important role on the onset of the diffuser rotating stall. In the present paper, the investigation is focused on the instability at about 60% Qopt. Based on both of experimental and numerical results, it was clarified that the characteristic instability at 60%Qopt is caused by the backflow at the inlet of the impeller tip and the leakage flow from the impeller pressure surface to the suction surface plays an important role on the onset of the backflow. The behaviors of backflow at the impeller inlet were visualized by the DPIV measurements and CFD simulation. Moreover, internal flow was investigated in detail and the occurrence of characteristic instability is assumed as follows: At the partial flow rate, the flow angle at the inlet of the impeller tip decreases and the flow hits the impeller pressure surface. Then, the blade loading at the inlet of impeller tip is increased and the recirculation at the leading edge and the leakage flow rate from pressure surface to suction surface increases. The leakage flow causes to generate vortices at the inlet of the suction surface of the impeller. As the flow rate is further decreased, the vortices develop to backflow with swirl. The leakage flow has peripheral component of absolute velocity and the swirling energy is continuously supplied by the backflow. Therefore, even the passage flow at the inlet of the impeller has been getting pre-swirling. The theoretical head, the Euler head is decreased due to the pre-swirling. Moreover, based on the CFD results, the pre-swirling and unsteady vortices near the suction surface of the impeller causes pump characteristic instability. When the flow rate is decreased further more, total head rises because the flow pattern in the impeller changes to centrifugal type due to the backflow from the vaned diffuser at the hub region.

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