Numerical investigation of the effect of the volute on stall flow phenomenon is presented by solving three-dimensional Reynolds-averaged compressible Navier-Stokes equations. Two different configurations of a centrifugal compressor were used to compare their performance: One is an original centrifugal compressor which is composed of impeller, splitter, vaned diffuser and a volute and the other is the one without a volute. Steady calculations were performed to predict aerodynamic performance in terms of the pressure ratio, efficiency and mass flow rate. The results show that the operating range of the compressor with a volute is narrower than that of the compressor without a volute. This can be interpreted that flow instability is strongly influenced by the tongue of a volute which is highly asymmetric.
Unsteady calculations were also performed with a time-step size of 38μs corresponding to a pitch angle of 5 degrees at the given rotational speed. The flow characteristics for two configurations are analyzed and compared at various instantaneous times showing unsteady dynamic features. Based on the unsteady flow simulation, fast Fourier transform at several discrete points in semi-vaneless space was performed at peak efficiency and near surge point in order to illustrate the unstable flow physics in both configurations. It is found that the blade passing frequency is dominant, indicating that diffuser passages have a periodicity of 40 degrees due to the rotational blades. Besides blade passing frequency, there were several noticeable frequencies which affect the instability of the whole system. Those frequencies in both configurations are compared and analyzed in various aspects.