The paper presents experimental and numerical studies on the effects of tip clearance on the stall inception process in a low-speed axial compressor rotor with a large tip clearance. It has been revealed that in the small tip clearance case, shortly after the spike disturbance which results from the leading-edge separation near the rotor tip appears, the tornado-like vortex is generated by the separation, and soon the compressor falls into stall. In the large tip clearance case, the experiment showed that the performance characteristic differs from that in the small tip clearance case at near-stall conditions. This implies that the stall inception process differs with the tip clearance size. The flow phenomenon in the stall inception leading to such difference has been investigated in this study.

Pressure and velocity fields which were ensemble-averaged and phase-locked by the periodic multi-sampling technique were measured on the casing wall and downstream of the rotor, respectively. In addition, to capture the unsteady flow phenomena inside the rotor, “Instantaneous Casing Pressure Field Measurement” was carried out: instantaneous casing pressure fields in one rotor passage region were measured by 30 high response pressure transducers mounted on the casing wall. In order to investigate further details of near-stall flow field for the large tip clearance, DES (Detached Eddy Simulation) has been conducted using a computational mesh with 120 million points. The results are compared with those from previous studies for the small tip clearance.

As expected, the measurement results show notable differences in the near-stall flow field between the two tip clearance cases. The results from the casing pressure measurement show that high pressure fluctuation appears on the pressure side near the rotor leading-edge in the large tip clearance case. In the result of the velocity field measurement downstream of the rotor, high turbulence intensity is found near the casing in the large tip clearance case. The numerical results reveal that the vortex breakdown occurs in the tip leakage vortex and induces the oscillation of the tip leakage vortex with its unsteady nature. The flow phenomena confirmed in the experimental results are clearly explained by considering the breakdown of the tip leakage vortex. The vortex breakdown gives rise to not only large blockage but also the rotating disturbance through the interaction of the fluctuating tip leakage vortex with the pressure surface of the adjacent blade, and governs the stall inception process.

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