The operating range of a centrifugal compressor is often limited by the occurrence of the flow instability, such as diffuser rotating stall or system surge. In the paper, the unsteady numerical simulations are performed on a low-speed centrifugal compressor to investigate the characteristic of the rotating stall in the vaned diffuser. And also, the developed model of lumped parameter is used to predict the system instability.

The flow field in the diffuser is firstly investigated at near stall condition. It is found that the leading-edge vortex and the secondary flow induce the hub-corner separation at the suction side of the diffuser blade. When the mass flow rate is reduced gradually, the fore part of the volute turns to act as a diffuser from a nozzle. Under the influence of the asymmetry induced by the volute, the hub-corner separation firstly develops into rotating stall in the passage with the lowest mass flow rate when at critical stall point. And then the diffuser rotating stall propagates along the circumferential direction at about 7% of the impeller speed.

And also, the model of lumped parameter considering the effect of rotating stall is developed to analyze the system instability of mild surge. The predicted vibration frequency is within 5.8% of the measurement and the predicted transient process in mild surge matches well with the measurement. With different volume of the compressed air, the transient compressor characteristic tends to be stabilized or oscillates in a cycle along the counter-clockwise with different magnitude.

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