Turbocharger centrifugal compressors are equipped with a “ported shroud” to reduce flow instabilities at low mass flow rate. This passive stability control device using flow recirculation has been demonstrated to extend the surge margin of a compressor, without substantially sacrificing performance. However, the actual working mechanisms of the system remain not well understood.

In this paper, the relationship between inlet flow recirculation and instability control is studied using stereoscopic particle image velocimetry (PIV) in conjunction with dynamic pressure transducers at the inlet of a turbocharger compressor with and without a ported shroud. Both stable and unstable operational points are analyzed with use of phase-locked PIV measurements in surge.

Detailed description of unstable flow in a centrifugal compressor is presented with the reconstruction of the complex flow structure evolution at the compressor inlet during surge. Rather than one-dimensional, the surge flow is described by a three-dimensional axisymmetric structure of combined entering and exiting swirling flows, alternating in magnitude during the self-excited pressure cycle. The correlation between pressure and velocity measurements shows that the development of compressor unsteadiness is accompanied with swirling reversed flow at the impeller tip. The influence of the ported shroud on the inlet velocity flowfield is seen with the presence of localized flow recirculation. Stability improvement with a ported shroud is thus explained by removing swirling backflow at the impeller inducer tip and recirculating it to the impeller inlet to increase the near shroud inlet blade loading and incidence angle.

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