Buoyancy driven flows such as the one that occurs in the inter-disk space of an axial compressor spool plays a major role in determining the gas turbine engine projected life and performance. Details of the developed flow structure inside these spaces largely impact the operating temperatures on the rotating walls of the compressor hardware and therefore impact the life of the machine. In this paper the impact of engine power condition (Idle, Highpower, and Shutdown) on the flow structure for these rotating cavities is studied under a wide range of operating conditions encountered by realistic turbomachines. A computational analysis is performed using commercially available computational tools for grid generation (ICEM-CFD) and turbulent-flow simulation (CFX). A computational test case was developed to imitate the rig-test conditions of Owen and Powell, and computed results were assessed and validated by comparison with their experimental results. A total of fifteen unsteady CFD cases covering a wide range of operating conditions (Rossby Number Ro, Rotational Rayleigh Number Raφ, and axial Reynolds Number Rez) were analyzed. The computed flow results revealed that the flow structure evolution, starting from a steady state solution, is such that radial arms of different number (according to the engine power condition), surrounded by a co-rotating (cyclonic) and counter-rotating (anti-cyclonic) pair of vortices, start to form at different locations. Cold air from the central jet enters the cavity in these arms under the combined action of the centrifugal buoyancy and the Coriolis forces. As time proceeds, the flow structure tends to become virtually invariant with time in a repeatable pattern. The number of radial arms, strength of recirculation zones, and the degree of invasion of the central cooling air toward the shroud are all dependent on the engine power condition. The computations also revealed that at high rotational speed the flow stabilizes, and the unsteady features of the flow structure (cyclonic and anti-cyclonic recirculation zones surrounding the radial arms, radial invasion of the cooling air in the radial arms, and its final impingement upon the shroud surface) eventually disappear after a threshold value of the rotational speed is reached.

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