This paper describes the flow mechanisms of rotating stall inception in a multistage axial flow compressor of an actual gas turbine. Large-scale numerical simulations of the unsteady have been conducted. The compressor investigated is a test rig compressor that was used in the development of the Kawasaki L30A industrial gas turbine. While the compressor consists of a total of 14 stages, only the front stages of the compressor were analyzed in the present study. The test data show that the fifth or sixth stages of the machine are most likely the ones leading to stall. To model the precise flow physics leading to stall inception, the flow was modeled using a very dense computational mesh, with several million cells in each passage. A total of 2 × 109 cells were used for the first seven stages (3 × 108 cells in each stage). Since the mesh was still not fine enough for large-eddy simulation (LES), a detached-eddy simulation (DES) was used. Using DES, a flow field is calculated using LES except in the near-wall where the turbulent eddies are modeled by Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes. The computational resources required for such large-scale simulations were still quite large, so the computations were conducted on the K computer (RIKEN AICS in Japan). Unsteady flow phenomena at the stall inception were analyzed using data mining techniques such as vortex identification and limiting streamline drawing with line integral convolution (LIC) techniques. In the compressor studied, stall started from a separation on the hub side rather than the commonly observed leading-edge separation near the tip. The flow phenomenon first observed in the stalling process is the hub corner separation, which appears in a passage of the sixth stator when approaching the stall point. This hub corner separation grows with time, and eventually leads to a leading-edge separation on the hub side of the stator. Once the leading-edge separation occurs, it rapidly develops into a rotating stall, causing another leading-edge separation of the neighboring blade. Finally, the rotating stall spreads to the upstream and downstream blade rows due to its large blockage effect.

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