A new optically index matched facility has been constructed to investigate tip flows in compressor-like settings. The blades of the one and a half stage compressor have the same geometry, but lower aspect ratio as the inlet guide vanes (IGVs) and the first stage of the low-speed axial compressor (LSAC) facility at NASA Glenn. With transparent blades and casings, the new setup enables unobstructed velocity measurements at any point within the tip region and is designed to facilitate direct measurements of effects of casing treatments on the flow structure. We start with a smooth endwall casing. High speed movies of cavitation and time-resolved PIV measurements have been used to characterize the location, trajectory, and behavior of the tip leakage vortex (TLV) for two flow rates, the lower one representing prestall conditions. Results of both methods show consistent trends. As the flow rate is reduced, TLV rollup occurs further upstream, and its initial orientation becomes more circumferential. At prestall conditions, the TLV is initially aligned slightly upstream of the rotor passage, and subsequently forced downstream. Within the passage, the TLV breaks up into a large number of vortex fragments, which occupy a broad area. Consequently, the cavitation in the TLV core disappears. With decreasing flow rate, this phenomenon becomes more abrupt, occurs further upstream, and the fragments occupy a larger area.

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