The spike-type rotating stall (RS) inception inside the vaned-diffuser, which seriously restricts the performance range and brings the problems of blade fatigue, still seems to be a ‘mystery’ since its randomness. The paper intends to explain the mechanisms of this stall inception. To quantitatively assess the critical unsteady behavior to the initiation of RS inception, the transient measurement characterizes the process falling into the RS through the parameter of ‘blade passing irregularity’. The underlying vortex disturbance, related to the growing of the flow complexity and the final spike-type precursor, is further revealed by the full-annulus simulation. The results show the propagation principle of the vortexes from the design to the stall inception point, reflected by the distribution of ‘blade passing irregularity’. The performance change of different sub-components due to the vortex behavior is presented. At the RS limit, the sudden ramp-up of the ‘blade passing irregularity’ near the leading edge (LE), accompanied with the drop of the static pressure rise in the sub-component between the semi-vaneless and throat, corresponds to the spike-type inception in the form of a clockwise vortex connecting the suction side of the diffuser vane and the pressure side of the adjacent vane. Besides, when approaching the spike-type inception point, the couple effect of the growing potential of the diffuser vane and the enhanced vortex disturbance at the impeller outlet degrades the diffuser inlet flow.

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