Turbocharger technology is widely used in internal combustion engines. With the downsizing of internal combustion engines and the introduction of strict emission regulations, there is urgent demand for turbochargers featuring centrifugal compressors with a wide flow range. The flow in a centrifugal compressor of a turbocharger is non-axisymmetric due to the inherent asymmetry of the discharge volute. The asymmetric flow field inside the diffuser has great influence on the performance of centrifugal compressor. In order to develop a flow control method that facilitates a wider flow range of turbocharger compressors, further understanding of the asymmetric flow structure is very important. The main subject of this study is to reveal the asymmetrical characteristics of the flow field in the vaneless diffuser of a centrifugal compressor followed by a volute. Oil flow visualizations and numerical simulations were used. The results of the numerical simulations are consistent with that of the oil flow visualizations near choke and at designed flow rate. The results show that a “dual-zone mode” asymmetric flow structure exists near the shroud of the vaneless diffuser at near choke condition. A bifurcation point at the volute tongue that divides the flow and creates two distinct flow patterns was found. The asymmetry of the flow structure near the hub was much less significant than that near the shroud. At the design flow rate, asymmetric flow patterns are found neither near shroud nor near hub. At near surge condition, the pattern of the oil flow traces near the shroud is very different from those near choke.

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