Inducers are used as a first stage in pumps to minimize cavitation and allow the pump to operate at lower inlet head conditions. Inlet flow recirculation or backflow in the inducer occurs at low flow conditions and can lead to instabilities and cavitation-induced head breakdown. Backflow of an inducer with a tip clearance (TC) of τ = 0.32% and with no tip clearance (NTC) is examined with a series of computational fluid dynamics simulations. Removing the TC eliminates tip leakage flow; however, backflow is still observed. In fact, the NTC case showed a 37% increase in the length of the upstream backflow penetration. Tip leakage flow does instigate a smaller secondary leading edge tip vortex that is separate from the much larger backflow structure. A comprehensive analysis of these simulations suggests that blade inlet diffusion, not tip leakage flow, is the fundamental mechanism leading to the formation of backflow.

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