Numerical analysis is conducted for the 3-dimensional impeller and vaneless diffuser of a small centrifugal compressor. The influence of impeller tip clearance is investigated. A Navier-Stokes flow solver Finflo has been applied for the simulation. A practical real gas model has been generated for the calculation. Simulations with different sizes of tip clearance at different mass flow rates have been made. The results are compared to experimental results at a certain tip clearance and one operating point. Reasonable agreement has been obtained. The ideal gas model has also been applied to compare with the real gas model. The numerical results show that tip clearance has a significant effect on the performance of a small centrifugal compressor. As the size of tip clearance increases, both the pressure ratio and the efficiency decrease. The decreasing rate of efficiency is higher at higher mass flow rates and lower at lower mass flow rates. The input power of the compressor hardly changes with different sizes of tip clearance, but increases as the mass flow rate increases. The incidence of impeller and flow angle at the exit of the impeller increase as the size of tip clearance increases. Correlations of the size of tip clearance with the efficiency drop and change of flow angle at the exit of impeller are given. The detailed flow distribution shows that as the size of tip clearance increases, the tangential leaking flow at the tip clearance makes the low velocity flow region grow larger and move from the suction-shroud corner to the center of the flow channel. The main flow at the pressure side is compressed and accelerated. Therefore the uniformity of the flow in the whole channel decreases. The detailed flow distribution also shows that the leaking flow is stronger at higher mass flow rates.

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