A theoretical model for rotating stall in the vaneless diffuser of a centrifugal compressor is presented. It consists of a time-evolutive calculation of the strong interaction between the inviscid flow core and the unsteady boundary layers along the walls. It is shown that, depending on the diffuser geometry and the diffuser inlet flow angle, a transient perturbation of the outlet static pressure will generate a rotating flow pattern, if the periodicity of this perturbation corresponds to the experimentally observed number of cells. The relative rotational speed and the phase relation between the velocity and the flow angle variations are also in agreement with experimental data.

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