The effects of stepped-tip gaps and clearance levels on the performance of a transonic axial-flow compressor rotor were experimentally determined. A two-stage compressor with no inlet guide vanes was tested in a modern transonic compressor research facility. The first-stage rotor was unswept and was tested for an optimum tip clearance with variations in stepped gaps machined into the casing near the aft tip region of the rotor. Nine causing geometries were investigated consisting of three step profiles at each of three clearance levels. For small and intermediate clearances, stepped tip gaps were found to improve pressure ratio, efficiency, and flow range for most operating conditions. At 100 percent design rotor speed, stepped tip gaps produced a doubling of mass flow range with as much as a 2.0 percent increase in mass flow and a 1.5 percent improvement in efficiency. This study provides guidelines for engineers to improve compressor performance for an existing design by applying an optimum casing profile.

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