The effect of the design parameters of a return channel on the performance of a multistage centrifugal compressor was numerically investigated, and the shape of the return channel was optimized using a multiobjective optimization method based on a genetic algorithm to improve the performance of the centrifugal compressor. The results of sensitivity analysis using Latin hypercube sampling suggested that the inlet-to-outlet area ratio of the return vane affected the total pressure loss in the return channel, and that the inlet-to-outlet radius ratio of the return vane affected the outlet flow angle from the return vane. Moreover, this analysis suggested that the number of return vanes affected both the loss and the flow angle at the outlet. As a result of optimization, the number of return vane was increased from 14 to 22 and the area ratio was decreased from 0.71 to 0.66. The radius ratio was also decreased from 2.1 to 2.0. Performance tests on a centrifugal compressor with two return channels (the original design and optimized design) were carried out using two-stage test apparatus. The measured flow distribution exhibited a swirl flow in the center region and a reversed swirl flow near the hub and shroud sides. The exit flow of the optimized design was more uniform than that of the original design. For the optimized design, the overall two-stage efficiency and pressure coefficient were increased by 0.7% and 1.5%, respectively. Moreover, the second-stage efficiency and pressure coefficient were respectively increased by 1.0% and 3.2%. It is considered that the increase in the second-stage efficiency was caused by the increased uniformity of the flow, and the rise in the pressure coefficient was caused by a decrease in the residual swirl flow. It was thus concluded from the numerical and experimental results that the optimized return channel improved the performance of the multistage centrifugal compressor.

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