The diffuser rotating stall in a centrifugal compressor with vaned diffuser is one of important unsteady flow phenomena, which limits the operating range of the compressor. In this paper, the unsteady CFD analysis on a low-speed centrifugal compressor has been performed to investigate the flow characteristic in the diffuser and the propagation of the diffuser rotating stall.

The flow behaviors at the outlet of the impeller at design and off-design conditions are firstly investigated. It is found that a reversal flow, induced by the tip leakage flow, exists near the shroud at the impeller outlet and becomes serious with the mass flow rate reduced. Due to the span-wise variation of the flow angle at the diffuser inlet and the inversed pressure gradient in the passage, the leading-edge vortex (LEV) generates on the diffuser leading edge. The LEV then induces the secondary flow in the diffuser passage and then causes the hub-corner separation. Furthermore, the propagation of the diffuser rotating stall is presented in details.

The suction-side separation near the hub induces the blockage in the passage. And the shedding vortex from the suction side moves toward the leading edge of the adjacent blade. When the vortex reaches to the leading edge of the adjacent blade, the incidence increase and a new separation occurs on the suction side. With the development of the new separation, the passage becomes blocked gradually and the upstream stalled passage recovers to a normal condition. The rotating stall propagates along the direction of the impeller rotation at about 4.5% of the impeller rotational speed.

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