The optimum aspect ratio at which maximum efficiency occurs is relatively low, typically between 1 and 1.5. At these aspect ratios, inaccuracies inherently exist in the decomposition of the flow field into freestream and endwall components due to the absence of a discernible freestream. In this paper, a unique approach is taken: a “linear repeating stage” concept is used in conjunction with a novel way of defining the freestream flow. Through this approach, physically accurate decomposition of the flow field for aspect ratios as low as ∼0.5 can be achieved. This ability to accurately decompose the flow leads to several key findings. First, the endwall flow is found to be dependent on static pressure rise coefficient and endwall geometry, but independent of the aspect ratio. Second, the commonly accepted relationship that endwall loss coefficient varies inversely with the aspect ratio is shown to be physically inaccurate. Instead, a new term, which the authors refer to as the “effective aspect ratio,” should replace the term “aspect ratio.” Moreover, not doing so can result in efficiency errors of ∼0.6% at low aspect ratios. Finally, there exists a low aspect ratio limit below which the two endwall flows interact causing a large separation to occur along the span. From these findings, a low-order model is developed to model the effect of varying aspect ratio on compressor performance. The last section of the paper uses this low-order model and a simple analytical model to show that to a first order, the optimum aspect ratio is just a function of the loss generated by the endwalls at zero clearance and the rate of change in profile loss due to blade thickness. This means that once the endwall configuration has been selected, i.e., cantilever or shroud, the blade thickness sets the optimum aspect ratio.

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