Effects of axial casing grooves (ACGs) on the stall margin and efficiency of a one and a half stage low-speed axial compressor with a large rotor tip gap are investigated in detail. The primary focus of the current paper is to identify the flow mechanisms behind the changes in stall margin and on the efficiency of the compressor stage with a large rotor tip gap. Semicircular axial grooves installed in the rotor’s leading edge area are investigated. A large eddy simulation (LES) is applied to calculate the unsteady flow field in a compressor stage with ACGs. The calculated flow fields are first validated with previously reported flow visualizations and stereo PIV (SPIV) measurements. An in-depth examination of the calculated flow field indicates that the primary mechanism of the ACG is the prevention of full tip leakage vortex (TLV) formation when the rotor blade passes under the axial grooves periodically. The TLV is formed when the incoming main flow boundary layer collides with the tip clearance flow boundary layer coming from the opposite direction near the casing and rolls up around the rotor tip vortex. When the rotor passes directly under the axial groove, the tip clearance flow boundary layer on the casing moves into the ACGs and no roll-up of the incoming main flow boundary layer can occur. Consequently, the full TLV is not formed periodically as the rotor passes under the open casing of the axial grooves. Axial grooves prevent the formation of the full TLV. This periodic prevention of the full TLV generation is the main mechanism explaining how the ACGs extend the compressor stall margin by reducing the total blockage near the rotor tip area. Flows coming out from the front of the grooves affect the overall performance as it increases the flow incidence near the leading edge and the blade loading with the current ACGs. The primary flow mechanism of the ACGs is periodic prevention of the full TLV formation.
Lower efficiency and reduced pressure rise at higher flow rates for the current casing groove configuration are due to additional mixing between the main passage flow and the flow from the grooves. At higher flow rates, blockage generation due to this additional mixing is larger than any removal of the flow blockage by the grooves. Furthermore, stronger double-leakage tip clearance flow is generated with this additional mixing with the ACGs at a higher flow rate than that of the smooth wall.