The evolution process of a diffuser rotating stall in a centrifugal compressor with a vaned diffuser was investigated by experimental and numerical analyses. From velocity measurements, it was found that the diffuser stall propagated near the shroud side in the vaneless space. As the mass flow decreased, a stage stall rotated within both the impeller and diffuser passages, instead of a diffuser stall. The evolution process of the diffuser stall had three stall forms. First, the diffuser stall, which was rotating on the shroud side, shifted to the hub side. Then, the diffuser stall moved into the impeller passages and evolved to a stage stall. From computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis, a tornado-type vortex was generated first, near the hub side of the diffuser leading edge, when the diffuser stall was shifted to the hub side. Next, a throat area blockage was formed near the hub side because of the boundary layer separation in the vaneless space. Finally, the blockage within the diffuser passages expanded to the impeller passages and developed into a stage stall. From the pressure measurements along the impeller and diffuser passages, the magnitude of pressure fluctuation on the casing wall of the diffuser throat area also suddenly increased when the diffuser stall shifted to the hub side. Therefore, the evolution area of the diffuser stall was caused by the evolution of the blockage near the throat area of the diffuser passage.

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