Unshrouded industrial centrifugal compressor impellers operate at high rotational speeds and volume flow rates. Under such conditions the main impeller blade excitation is dominated by high frequency interaction with stationary parts, i.e. vaned diffusers or inlet guide vanes. However, at severe part load operating conditions sub-synchronous rotating flow phenomena (rotating stall) can occur and cause resonant blade vibration with significant dynamic (von-Mises) stress in the impeller blades. To ensure high aerodynamic performance and mechanical integrity, part load conditions must be taken into account in the aero-mechanical design process via CFD and FEM analyses anchored by experimental verification.

The experimental description and quantification of unsteady interaction between rotating stall cells and an unshrouded centrifugal compression stage in two different full scale compression units by Jenny and Bidaut [1] were reproduced in a scaled model test facility to enhance the understanding of the fluid-structure interaction mechanisms and to improve design guide lines. Measurements with strain gauges and time-resolved pressure transducers on the stationary and rotating parts at different positions identified similar rotating stall patterns and induced stress levels. Rotating stall cell induced resonant blade vibration was discovered for severe off-design operating conditions and the measured induced dynamic von-Mises stress peaked at 15% of the mechanical endurance limit of the impeller material.

Unsteady full annulus CFD simulations predicted the same rotating stall pressure fluctuations as the measurements. The unsteady RANS simulations were then used in FEM fluid-structure interaction analyses to predict the stress induced by rotating stall and assess the aerodynamic damping of the corresponding impeller vibration mode shape. Excellent agreement with the measurements was obtained for the stall cell pressure amplitudes at various locations. The relative difference between measured and mean predicted stress from fluid-structure interaction was 17% when resonant blade vibration occurred. The computed aerodynamic damping was 27% higher compared to the measurement.

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