A centrifugal compressor was tested with three different diffusers with circular-arc vanes. The vane inlet angle was varied from 15 to 30 deg. Detailed static wall pressure measurements show that the pressure field in the diffuser inlet is very sensitive to flow rate. The stability limit regularly occurred at the flow rate giving the maximum pressure rise for the overall stage. Mild surge arises as a dynamic instability of the compression system. The analysis of the pressure rise characteristic of each individual subcomponent (impeller, diffuser inlet, diffuser channel,...) reveals their contribution to the overall pressure rise. The diffuser channels play an inherently destabilizing role while the impeller and the diffuser inlet are typically stabilizing. The stability limit was mainly determined by a change in the characteristic of the diffuser inlet. Further, the stability limit was found to be independent of the development of inducer-tip recirculation.

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