This study numerically and experimentally examines the effects of applying curvilinear element blades to fully-shrouded centrifugal impellers on the performance of the centrifugal compressor stages. The design suction coefficient of the target impellers was 0.073. Our previous study confirmed that the application of curvilinear element blades could improve the stage efficiency of similar types of centrifugal compressors. However, a detailed explanation of the relation between the stall margin and the application of the curvilinear element blades remains to be given. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of using these blades on the impeller flow field and the stall margin in further detail.

The curvilinear element blades we developed for centrifugal turbomachinery were defined by the coordinate transformations between a revolutionary flow-coordinate system and a cylindrical coordinate system. All the blade sections in the transferred cylindrical coordinate system were moved and stacked spanwise in accordance with the given “lean profile,” which meant the spanwise distribution profile of movement of the blade sections, to form a new leaned blade surface. The effects of the curvilinear element blades on the impeller flowfield were investigated by conducting numerical simulations using this method. We next considered the optimum design guidelines for impellers with curvilinear element blades. Then we designed a new impeller using these design guidelines and evaluated the performance improvement of a new compressor stage by conducting numerical simulations.

As mentioned in several papers, we numerically confirmed that curvilinear element blades with a negative tangential lean profile improved the velocity distribution and stage efficiency because they help to suppress the secondary flows in the impeller. The negative tangential lean mentioned in this paper represents the lean profile in which the blade hub end leans forward in the direction of the impeller rotation compared to the blade shroud end. At the same time, we also found that the stall margin of these impellers deteriorated due to the increase in relative velocity deceleration near the suction surface of the shroud in the forward part of the impeller. Therefore, we propose new design guidelines for impellers with the curvilinear element blades by applying a negative tangential lean to line element blades in which the blade loading of the shroud side in the forward part of the impeller is reduced. We confirmed from the numerical simulation results that the performance of the new compressor stage improved compared to that in the corresponding conventional one.

The new design guidelines for the curvilinear element blades were experimentally verified by comparing the performance of the new compressor stage with the corresponding conventional one. The measured efficiency of the new compressor stage was 2.4 % higher than that of the conventional stage with the stall margin kept comparable. A comparison of the measured velocity distributions at the impeller exit showed that the velocity distribution of the new impeller was much more uniform than that of the conventional one.

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