The blade tip clearance loss was studied experimentally and numerically for a micro radial fan with a tip diameter of 19.2mm. Its relative blade tip clearance, i.e., the clearance divided by the blade height of 1.82 mm, was adjusted with different shims. The fan characteristics were experimentally determined for an operation at the nominal rotational speed of 168 krpm with hot air (200 °C). The total-to-total pressure rise and efficiency increased from 49 mbar to 68 mbar and from 53% to 64%, respectively, by reducing the relative tip clearance from 7.7% to the design value of 2.2%. Single and full passage computational fluid dynamics simulations correlate well with these experimental findings. The widely-used Pfleiderer loss correlation with an empirical coefficient of 2.8 fits the numerical simulation and the experiments within +2 efficiency points. The high sensitivity to the tip clearance loss is a result of the design specific speed of 0.80, the highly-backward curved blades (17°), and possibly the low Reynolds number (1 × 105). The authors suggest three main measures to mitigate the blade tip clearance losses for small-scale fans: (1) utilization of high-precision surfaced-grooved gas-bearings to lower the blade tip clearance, (2) a mid-loaded blade design, and (3) an unloaded fan leading edge to reduce the blade tip clearance vortex in the fan passage.

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