The flow inside cavities between co-rotating compressor discs of aero-engines is driven by buoyancy, with Grashof numbers exceeding 1013. This phenomenon creates a conjugate problem: the Nusselt numbers depend on the radial temperature distribution of the discs, and the disc temperatures depend on the Nusselt numbers. Furthermore, Coriolis forces in the rotating fluid generate cyclonic and anti-cyclonic circulations inside the cavity. Such flows are three-dimensional, unsteady and unstable, and it is a challenge to compute and measure the heat transfer from the discs to the axial throughflow in the compressor. In this paper, Nusselt numbers are experimentally determined from measurements of steady-state temperatures on the surfaces of both discs in a rotating cavity of the Bath Compressor-Cavity Rig. The data are collected over a range of engine-representative parameters and are the first results from a new experimental facility specifically designed to investigate buoyancy-induced flow. The radial distributions of disc temperature were collected under carefully-controlled thermal boundary conditions appropriate for analysis using a Bayesian model combined with the equations for a circular fin. The Owen-Tang buoyancy model has been used to compare predicted radial distributions of disc temperatures and Nusselt numbers with some of the experimentally determined values, taking account of radiation between the interior surfaces of the cavity.
The experiments show that the average Nusselt numbers on the disc increase as the buoyancy forces increase. At high rotational speeds the temperature rise in the core, created by compressibility effects in the air, attenuates the heat transfer and there is a critical rotational Reynolds number for which the Nusselt number is a maximum. In the cavity, there is an inner region dominated by forced convection and an outer region dominated by buoyancy-induced flow. The inner region is a mixing region, in which entrained cold throughflow encounters hot flow from the Ekman layers on the discs. Consequently, the Nusselt numbers on the downstream disc in the inner region tend to be higher than those on the upstream disc.