This paper considers the effect of aspect ratio on compressor performance. It is shown that the aspect ratio at which max efficiency occurs is relatively low, typically between 1 and 1.5. At these aspect ratios, decomposition of the flow field into freestream and endwall flows becomes difficult. In this paper, a unique approach is taken; McKenzie’s ‘linear repeating stage’ concept is used and a novel way of defining freestream flow is proposed. Through these simplifications and methods, physically accurate decomposition of the flow field for aspect ratios as low as ∼0.7 can be achieved.

This ability to accurately decompose the flow field leads to two key findings. Firstly, the commonly accepted relationship of endwall loss coefficient varying inversely with aspect ratio is inaccurate. Instead, a new term, which the authors refer to as ‘effective aspect ratio’, should replace aspect ratio. It is shown that not doing so can result in efficiency errors of ∼0.6% at low aspect ratios. Secondly, there exists a low aspect ratio limit below which the two endwall flows interact causing a large separation to occur along the span. From these findings, a low order model is developed to model the effect of varying aspect ratio on performance.

The last section of this paper uses this low order model as well as a simple analytical model to show that to a first order, the optimum aspect ratio is just a function of the loss generated by the endwalls at zero clearance and the rate of increase in profile loss due to blade thickness. This means that once the endwall configuration has been selected i.e. cantilever or shroud, the blade thickness sets the optimum aspect ratio.

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