A three-dimensional unsteady flow separation in the straight diffuser of a model bulb turbine is investigated using tuft visualizations, unsteady wall pressure sensors, and particle image velocimetry (PIV). Experimental results reveal a link between the flow separation zone extension and the sudden drop in turbine performances. The flow separation zone grows as the flow rate increases past the best efficiency operating point (OP). It starts on the bottom wall and expands azimuthally and upstream. It deviates and perturbs the flow far upstream. Despite high unsteadiness, a global separation streamline pattern composed of a saddle point and a convergence line emerges.

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