The behavior of the relative flow in centrifugal turbomachines is extremely complex due to the existence of various fluid dynamic phenomena and their interaction. At design and off-design operating conditions, the relative flow is subject to stationary unsteadiness, which includes the flow separation and wakes associated with passage pressure gradients, secondary flows, and boundary layer stability. It is also subject to periodic unsteadiness from the rotating stall and the cyclic flow phenomena induced by the casing. This paper describes the mechanical and optical design of a rotating laser-Doppler anemometry system, which allows direct measurement of the relative flow by means of an optical derotator. By isolating the impeller rotational frequency from the sampling frequency, it allows direct time-averaged measurements of the stationary behavior of the relative flow along with the ensemble (phase)-averaged measurements of its periodic behavior. Its success is demonstrated with measurements conducted in a low specific speed centrifugal impeller fitted with a single volute. Sample results of the time-averaged blade-to-blade variation of total relative velocities along with their associated turbulence intensities are reported. The (periodic) cyclic variations of the impeller exit flow, induced by the volute at low flow rates, are also presented for the suction and pressure sides.

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