This paper presents a parallel numerical and experimental study of rotating stall cells in an axial compressor. Based on previous theoretical and experimental studies stressing the importance of fluid inertia and momentum exchange mechanisms in rotating stall, a numerical simulation using the Euler equations is conducted. Unsteady two-dimensional solutions of rotating stall behavior are obtained in a one-stage low subsonic axial compressor. The structure and speed of propagation of one fully developed rotating stall cell together with its associated unsteady static pressure and throughflow field distributions are presented. The numerical capture of a stalled flow region starting from a stable high-flow operating point with an axisymmetric flow distribution and evolving at a reduced mass flow operating point into a rotating stall pattern is also discussed. The experimental data (flow visualization, time-averaged and unsteady row-by-row static pressure measurements) acquired in a four-stage water model of a subsonic axial compressor cover a complete characteristic line ranging from high mass flow in the stable regime to zero throughflow. Stall inception is presented together with clearly marked different operating zones within the unstable regime. For one operating point in the unstable regime, the speed of propagation of the cell as well as the static pressure spikes at the front and rear boundaries of the rotating stall cell are compared between computations, measurements, and an idealized theory based on momentum exchange between blade rows entering and leaving the stalled cell. In addition, the time evolution of the pressure trace at the rotor/stator interface is presented. This study seems to support the assumption that the cell structure and general mechanism of full-span rotating stall propagation are essentially governed by inertial effects and momentum exchange between the sound and stalled flow at the cell edges.

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