The present work uses Stereoscopic Particle Image Velocimetry (SPIV) to analyze the compressor inlet flow field, with specific emphasis on its turbulence characteristics during flow reversal in order to gain further insight into the inlet flow structures. SPIV experiments were carried out at the inlet of a centrifugal compressor without any recirculation channel at four different rotational speeds (from 80 to 140 krpm) and over the entire mass flow range (from choke to surge) at each speed. Detailed analyses have been carried out for the mean velocity field, the mean vorticity field, and the turbulent statistics including turbulent kinetic energy, Reynolds stress, and the one-dimensional energy spectra. The turbulent kinetic energy at the compressor inlet was observed to increase rapidly along a speed line with decreasing mass flow rate once flow separation started, and the turbulence became more anisotropic. As the flow rate was reduced (along a speed line), the zone with maximum turbulent kinetic energy moved from the periphery toward the center of the inlet duct and also occurred further upstream from the impeller. The Reynolds stress distributions suggest that the Boussinesq assumption of an isotropic eddy viscosity may not be appropriate after the detection of flow reversal. The Reynolds shear stresses were observed to change signs with their corresponding velocity gradients at the tested mass flow rates at different rotational speeds. At the investigated flow rates, the radial gradients in the axial and tangential velocities were found to be most dominant.

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