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Journal of Al Azhar University Engineering Sector

Vol. 7, No. 23, April 2012, 989-1006

Air-flow in Multi-stage Centrifugal Compressor


Nabil H. Mostafa, Ahmed F. Abdel-Gawad, Yasser M. El-okda, Mohamed S. Emeara
Mechanical Power Eng. Dept., Faculty of Engineering, Zagazig University, Zagazig, Egypt
ABSTRACT
Flow study in centrifugal compressors is the most complicated in turbomachinery. The difficulty is
mainly due to the unsymmetrical geometry of blades and volute as well as the presence of secondary
flow. The situation becomes worse in the case of multi-stage centrifugal compressor. The investigation
is so complicated because of the presence of return bends between stages with the volute and the large
domain of study. The present study concerns the full domain of a four-stage centrifugal compressor
with its volute, for the first time. Both computational and experimental investigations were utilized to
study the flow behavior inside the compressor. The computational code was validated experimentally
and numerically. Compressor map was drawn numerically and experimentally. Volute removal
technique could not predict surge. Full-domain solution is efficient. Surge was unsteadily simulated.
Surge predicted at mass flow equal to =0.0093 kg/s for N=20,000 rpm and 1.5 pressure ratio.
Uncertainty was studied for analog and digital maps. Using the parallel computational technology, by
High Performance Computing HPC program, is recommended for future work.
2- Case Study
A four-stage centrifugal compressor was considered as the present case study. Fig. (1) shows a
performance map of the compressor. The provided data was considered to draw the case-study in threedimensions. The problem geometry contains the inlet and outlet ducts, the four stages of the
compressor as well as the volute. Each stage includes the impeller and the return-bend. Each impeller
contains six backward blades. Fig. (2) shows the isometric view of the compressor. Fig. (3) shows how
air flows through the compressor stages.
3- Surge
Surge is an axisymmetrical oscillation of the flow through the compressor, and is characterized by a
limit cycle in the compressor characteristic with a frequency range of 3-15 Hz. An example of such
characteristic is shown as S-shape curve in Fig. (4). The characteristic shows the pressure rise over the
compressor as a function of the mass flow rate. The surge severity can be classified in two levels: mild
and deep surge [Mostafa, 2000].
4- Survey of Previous Studies
[Stein, 2000] took a sector-domain between two blades in the impeller which displayed in Fig. (5) with
red color. He made a good research on two models of single-stage centrifugal compressor which are; 1NASA low-speed centrifugal compressor, and 2- DLR high-speed centrifugal compressor. Then, he
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carried out code validation with corresponding experimental data. Also, he simulated surge in both
cases and examined some parameters such as velocity and total pressure.
[Xu and Muller, 2005] presented a detailed flow simulation in the volute of a single-stage centrifugal
compressor, Fig. (6). They considered a full-domain technique, for the first time.
The German Von Karman Institute report [VKI, 2005], in 2005 about turbomachinery, described flow
pattern in many turbomachines like centrifugal compressor, Fig. (7).
[Yutaka et al., 2007] carried out a numerical and experimental study of the centrifugal-compressor
noise affected by the flow in the tapered diffuser. Numerically, 3D steady model was used to simulate
flow. The numerical model utilized a full-domain mesh (single-stage) and the occurrence of sliding
mesh was introduced as seen in Fig. (8).
[Ling et al., 2007] simulated a small centrifugal compressor undertaken at the Micro Propulsion Group
(MPG) and KJ66 gas turbine design, the compressor and its mesh are seen in Fig. (9).
[Tang et al., 2008] studied numerically a 3D impeller and vaneless diffuser of a small centrifugal
compressor. The influence of impeller tip clearance on the flow field of the impeller was investigated.
Then, a new partially shrouded impeller was designed. They used a sector-domain and 110,000 grid
points, as showed in Fig. (10). Better performance is achieved in comparison with the unshrouded
impeller.
5- GOVERNING EQUATIONS
The set of five coupled partial differential equations PDEs for the conservation of mass, momentum
and energy in fluid flows is known as the Navier-Stokes equations. These equations can be presented
in both differential and integral forms. Some terms of the full Navier-Stokes equations may be
simplified or ignored if certain assumptions are made.
The mass conservation equation for unsteady flow is given by:

( Vi ) 0
t
xi

eq.(1)

The conservation of momentum equation in the i th direction for unsteady flow can be written as:
ij
( Vi )

( ViV j ) g j

Fj
t
x j
xi
x j

eq.(2)

The unsteady equation of conservation of energy is given by

( E )
V ( E p) K T h J ( V ) S

eq.(3)
t
x
x
x

ij

6- TURBULENCE MODEL
It is the fact that no single turbulence model is universal for all problems. Therefore, the turbulence
model selection is needed.
For the present complex geometry, the standard k model was the most suitable model to solve the
present case study. The model involves solutions of transport equations for turbulent kinetic energy and
its rate of dissipation. It was found that the optimum values for the present case study are follows:
1- turbulence kinetic energy, k= 0.06 m2/s2,
2- turbulence dissipation rate, = 39 m2/s3.
7- COMPUTATIONAL GEOMETRY AND GRIDDING
The development in geometry technique is putting a geometric valve at end of duct, Fig. (11). The
geometric valve is accomplished by dividing the end wall of the outlet duct to 4 parts.
Mesh-sensitivity study was accomplished for each geometry technique except the fourth technique due
to the huge size of mesh in this case. The mesh was 973,446 cells (approximated to million cells).

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8- COMPUTATIONAL SOLVING TECHNIQUE
Computational fluid dynamics Research Corporation Code, which named CFD-RC was the used code.
Sliding mesh and split layer are the main solver techniques defined. The initial conditions of u, v and w
were set as 1 m/s. Also, pressure P and temperature T were assumed as atmospheric. Atmospheric pressure
is 101325 Pa 1 bar. Also, atmospheric temperature was taken as 25 = 298.
Unsteady or transient solution was used. A time step = 1 104 was the optimum.
A computer 2.2 GB Intel core TM 2 duo processor and 3 GB RAM was used with a Hard disk of 40 GB.
A whole day (24 hours) was needed to solve only one time step.
9- MEASUREMENT ANALYSIS
Measurement instruments can be classified into two main types which are; 1- analog instruments, and
2- digital instruments. In the case of using digital instruments, A/D cards are usually used. A/D cards
are responsible of connect the digital sensor signal to the computer. Also, the use of interface program
is needed. Fig. (12) shows the flow diagram of the present measurements.
9-1- Analog Measurements
The analog instruments that were used in pressure measurements were vertical manometer, inclined
manometer. These instruments are used in connection to pressure taps or pitot tubes. Also, the analog
instruments that are used to measure the compressor rotational speed (rpm) and motor torque were
Tachometer and torque dynamometer, respectively. Analog temperature instruments are meant by
traditional thermocouples with their reader.
9-2- Digital Measurements
The need of using digital instruments is to make accurate and fast response measurements. Any digital
device has its own wiring diagram. Most of digital devices need input power to send output signal.
Input power to the digital device may be volt or current. Any digital device has its calibration equation
according to which we can calculate the required value as a function of the measured value.
Positive Pressure Transducer (PPT) was used to measure positive pressures. The term of positive
pressure means the delivery side of compressor which refers to point 3, shown in Fig. (12). It is
important to know how to connect this device. This device needs 5 volt as input and sends a voltage
signal within 0.5 to 4.5 voltages as an output signal. Fig. (13) shows the device wiring diagram.
Negative Pressure Transducer (NPT) is another digital device used to read the compressor suction
pressures such as points 1 and 2, shown in Fig. (12). Also, Fig. (14) shows the transducer wiring
diagram. Sensitive fast response thermocouple was used to acquire the temperature of the
measurements, Fig. (15).
Digital speedometer was used to measure the compressor rotational speed directly. Fig. (16) shows the
wiring diagram.
The used A/D card is 16 bit, 1 MHz and it is labeled as CIO-DAS1602/16. Its base address is 300H and
it was connected based on a differential method.
LabView program was the best solution to interface the digital devices. Fig. (17) shows the block
diagram of the LabView program for the PPT. Also, Fig. (18) shows the block diagram of the NPT
program. Also, Fig. (19) shows the block diagram of the digital thermocouple program, respectively.
10- ERROR ANALYSIS
For a certain measurements, there are two kinds of variables; 1- measured variable, and 2- dependent
variable. Measured variable corresponds the instrument reading. Dependent variable comes by
substitute in a function of measured variables such as = 1 , 2 , 3 , . . . Figliola and Beasley
(1995) determined the uncertainty of the dependent variable R as:
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+
+
+
1
2
3

eq.(4)

For the present research, the dependent variables are; 1- the mass flow rate , 2- the static pressure
ratio 3 2 , 3- the static pressure rise 3 2 , 4- the overall efficiency , 5- the total pressure
ratio 3 2 , 6- the compressor inlet velocity 2 , 7- the compressor inlet Mach number 2 , 8- the
compressor outlet velocity 3 , and 9- the compressor outlet Mach number 3 .
It is worth mentioning that the differentials were found by aid of computer program by Matlab since
there were some differentials too long. This accomplished by facility on Matlab named symbolic.
11- MEASUREMENTS RESULTS
The analog performance maps of the compressor are displayed in Figs. (20)-(22) for the relations of
static pressure ratio 3 /2 , the static pressure rise = 3 2 (Pa), and the overall efficiency ,
respectively, versus the mass flow rate (kg/s). For validation, comparisons of the present digital and
analog results with the Armfeild data are shown in Figs. (23)-(24) for the rotational speeds 12,000,
9,000, and 6,000, respectively. For each rotational speed, three curves are presented. These curves are:
1- static pressure ratio 3 /2 , 2- static pressure rise = 3 2 , and 3- overall efficiency
versus mass flow rate .
The digital performance maps of the compressor is displayed in Figs. (26)-(33) for the relations of; 1static pressure ratio 3 /2 , 2- the static pressure rise = 3 2 (Pa), 3- the total pressure ratio
3 2 , 4- the overall efficiency , 5- the velocity at compressor inlet 2 , 6- the Mach number at
compressor inlet 2 , 7- the velocity at compressor outlet 3 , 8- the Mach number at compressor outlet
3 , versus the mass flow rate (kg/s).
12- CODE VALIDATION
The numerical results by CFD-RC code were validated here by comparison with either; 1- compressor
experimental data, or 2- some other published numerical results. The compressor experimental data
were supplied by its manufacture company, Armfield (2005). The published numerical results were
obtained by a famous German school, Von Karman Institute VKI (2005), and other published
researches, which were internationally published.
VKI results show the same trend of the static pressure distribution. Comparing Figs. (7) and (34)
ensures that the comparison is qualitatively good. When comparing the present results with a published
research by Xu and Muller (2005), the same trend of distribution of the static pressure is noticed in the
outlet volute of the compressor, Fig. (35). There is small difference in the static pressure distribution
which is due to the difference in the shape of the volutes. Fig. (36) represents a good validation of the
present computational scheme (code). It shows the air flows in the correct path from the compressor
entrance to the exit.
13- FAULTS IN VOLUTE EXCLUSION
This case was taken to examine the possibility of surge predicting with exclude volute. No any reverse
flow was found since there is no any obstruction. Fig. (37) shows the flow path with too small mass
flow rate and there is any reverse flow. Figs. (38) and (39) show the gradual increase in velocity in
impellers and this was not sufficient to create surge.

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14- SURGE PREDICTION
Since the maximum compressor pressure ratio was 1.3 and the compressor pressure ratio must to be 1.5 at
least. Then, modified case was defined with 1.5 pressure ratio and 20,000 rpm. In this case, surge
phenomena could be predicted. Figs. (40) and (41) show the gradual increase in the static pressure
distribution in different impellers. Also, Fig. 69 shows the important of combining a volute since it response
of convert the four stages velocities to increase static pressure.
Surge is usually studied by decreasing the mass flow rate until flow begins to oscillate. For the present
research, the surge was predicted at mass flow rate = 0.009399 kg/s. Actually, surge is simulated in three
regions. The first region is the inlet to the compressor. The second region is in the passage of the first
impeller. The third region is the section along the centerline of the exit duct, Figs. (42) and (43). The arrows
represent the velocity vectors and the arrow length scales the velocity magnitude.
Fig. (44) shows the oscillation of the velocity vectors. These oscillations can be detected at compressor inlet
by following the flow vectors with time steps. It is obviously seen that the velocity vectors move in the
direction of partial reverse flow and then move back to the correct direction. The term partial reverse flow
means that there are some velocity vectors but the overall flow moves in the correct direction. This partial
reverse flow makes the flow oscillate.
At = 0 , the numerical solution starts and the computational domain has the initial conditions. At
= 0.01 , the flow moves to the right and to the left to enter the impeller. At = 0.02 , the velocity
magnitude increases. At = 0.03 , the velocity magnitude decreases. By the same manner, the velocity
magnitude continues to increase and decrease, which makes the flow oscillate.
Fig. (45) shows the surge simulation in a passage in the first impeller of the compressor. The impeller is
backward, i.e., the impeller rotates in the CCW direction. Then, the right side of the passage is named as the
positive pressure side of the blade. Also, the left side of the passage is named as the negative pressure side
of the blade.
At t= 0.01 sec, the flow moves in a path adjacent to the positive pressure side in the passage. Full-span
rotating stall appears next to the negative pressure side. The stall is a flow separation that forms a vortex or
more. The rotating stall causes a blockage from one vortex or two vortices. This blockage narrows the flow
in the right (in the positive pressure side).
At t= 0.02 sec, the separation blockage was decreases as the main vortex is divided into two vortices. The
first one is big and goes up. The second one is small and goes down. The flow path increases since the stall
blockage is decreased.
At t= 0.03 sec, the stall blockage was decreased also and then the flow path is increased. At t= 0.04 sec, the
stall blockage increases rapidly and then the flow path decreases. At t= 0.05 sec, the stall blockage
decreases and then the flow path increases.
Also, surge is simulated in the outlet duct of the compressor, Fig. (46). This is a section along the centerline
of the exit duct.
At t= 0.01 sec, the flow moves from the sides of the duct towards the middle. There is a partial reverse
flow in the middle of the duct. Two small vortices are formed in the middle. Note that the partial reverse
flow is small in comparison to the total flow and then the net flow has no reverse. Then, it is also mild surge
and not deep surge since there is no net reverse flow.
At t= 0.02 sec, the two vortices decrease and then the partial reverse flow decreases and then the net flow
increases. At t= 0.03 sec, the two vortices increase and the partial reverse flow increases and then the net
flow decreases. By following the time steps, we can notice the flow fluctuations as the size of the partial
reverse flow fluctuates.
15- CONCLUSIONS
The CFD-RC code was validated experimentally and numerically. It is capable numerically of solving
the flow in the multi-stage centrifugal compressor. Also, the code was validated to simulate and predict
the mild surge. In the case of removing the volute, it is impossible to achieve surge. Surge was
unsteadily simulated. For modified case of high pressure ratio, surge predicted according to flow
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frequency at mass flow equal to =0.0093 kg/s for N=20,000 rpm and 1.5 pressure ratio. Uncertainty
was studied for analog and digital maps. Full-domain solution is efficient. Volute Removal technique
could not predict surge because there was no any obstruction.
16- FUTURE WORK
1- Using the technology of parallel-processing.
2- Using more popular designs like those of NASA to change the geometry of the compressor and
investigate the effect of the change on surge.
3- Using the multi-hole probes (such as seven-hole probe) in the measurements of the multi-stage centrifugal
compressor. The advantage of using the seven-hole probe is to acquire directly the total pressure , the static
pressure and the three components of velocity (u, v and w).
4- Studying the effect of some parameters on the compressor surge. These parameters include number of
blades, tip clearance and blade angles.

REFRENCES
1. Armfield, Manufacture Company of the Compressor, Compressor Performance Map Results, Armfield
Company, 2005. By e-mail of support@armfield.co.uk.
2. El-Mitwally, E. S., Abou-Rayan, M., Mostafa, N. H., and Hassanein, A. H., Modeling Techniques for
Predicting Compressor Performance during Surge & Rotating Stall, Fluid Engineering Division Conference,
FED-Vol.238, ASME, Vol.3, 1996.
3. CFD-RC, Manuals of Using ESI-CFD-RC Code, Program Documentation, www.esi-group.com, 2010.
4. Figliola, R., and Beasley, D., Theory and Design for Mechanical Measurements, Second edition, John
Wiley & Sons Inc., Copyright 1995.
5. Ling, J., Wong, K. C., and Armfield, S., Numerical Investigation of a Small Gas Turbine Compressor, 16th
Australian Fluid Mechanics Conference, Crown Plaza, Gold Coast, Australia, 2-7 Dec. 2007.
6. Mostafa, N. H., Prediction of Surge and Rotating Stall in Compressor, Mechanical Power Dept., College of
Engineering, Zagazig University, Zagazig, EGYPT, 2000. Personal Contact.
7. Stein, A., Computational Analysis of Stall and Separation Control in Centrifugal Compressors, Ph.D.
Thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, May 2000.
8. Tang, J., Turunen-Saaresti, T., and Larjola, J., Use of Partially Shrouded Impeller in a Small Centrifugal
Compressor, J. Thermal Science, Vol. 17, No.1, pp. 21-27, Article ID: 1003-2169(2008)01-0021-07, Nov.
2008.
9. VKI, Flow in Turbomachines, Von Karman Institute (VKI), Report 2005, http://www.vki.ac.be/index.html,
Germany, 2005.
10.
Xu, C., and Muller, M., Development and Design of a Centrifugal Compressor Volute, Int. J. Rotating
Machinery, Vol. 3, pp. 190-196, 2005.
11.
Yutaka, O., Takashi, G., and Eisuke, O., Effect of Tapered Diffuser Vane on the Flow Field and Noise
of a Centrifugal Compressor, J. Thermal Science, Vol. 16, No.4, pp. 301-308, DIO: 10.1007/s11630-0070301-1, 2007.

Figss

Fig. (1) Compressor performance map by its manufacturer company (C1-20), Armfield (2005).
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Fig. (2) Isometric view of the computational domain of the present compressor.

Fig. (3) Side view of the computational domain of the present compressor.

Fig. (4) Schematic of mild and deep surge cycle, Mostafa (2000).

Fig. (5) Case study of Stein (2000).


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Fig. (6) The computational mesh, which include the impeller, diffuser and the volute, Xu and Muller (2005).

Fig. (7) Static pressure distribution in the impeller of the centrifugal compressor byfamous Von
Karman Institute VKI, [VKI, 2005].

Fig. (8) Computational grid of Yutaka et al. (2007).

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Fig. (9) 3D model of KJ66 for Ling et al. (2007); (left): original stage design, (right) hexahedra mesh.

Fig. (10) (left) Surface grids of the computational domain, (right) Grids near the tip clearance, Tang et
al. (2008).

Fig. (11) Geometry technique.

Fig. (12) Experiment flow diagram

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Fig. (13) Digital positive pressure transducer; (left) picture, (right) wiring diagram.

Fig. (14) Digital negative pressure transducer; (left) picture, (right) wiring diagram.

Fig. (15) Sensitive fast response digital thermocouple, wiring diagram.

Fig. (16) Digital speedometer; wiring diagram.

Fig. (17) Block diagram of LabView to acquire the PPT signal.


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Fig. (18) Block diagram of LabView to acquire the NPT signal.

Fig. (19) Block diagram of LabView program to acquire the temperature signal; (upper) at inlet
to the compressor, (lower) at the compressor outlet.

Fig. (20) Analog performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, static
pressure ratio / versus mass flow rate .

Fig. (21) Analog performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, static
pressure rise = versus mass flow rate .
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Fig. (22) Analog performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, overall
efficiency versus mass flow rate .

Fig. (23) Comparison of digital and analog measurements with Armfeild data, static pressure
ratio / versus mass flow rate at 12,000 rpm.

Fig. (24) Comparison of digital and analog measurements with Armfeild data, static pressure
ratio / versus mass flow rate at 9,000 rpm.

Fig. (25) Comparison of digital and analog measurements with Armfeild data, static pressure
ratio / versus mass flow rate at 6,000 rpm.
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Fig. (26) Digital performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, static pressure ratio
/ versus mass flow rate .

Fig. (27) Digital performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, static pressure rise
= versus mass flow rate .

Fig. (28) Digital performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, total pressure ratio
/ versus mass flow rate .

Fig. (29) Digital performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, overall efficiency
versus mass flow rate .
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Fig. (30) Digital performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, velocity at
compressor inlet versus mass flow rate .

Fig. (31) Digital performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, Mach number at
compressor inlet versus mass flow rate .

Fig. (32) Digital performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, velocity at
compressor outlet versus mass flow rate .

Fig. (33) Digital performance map of the compressor at different rotational speeds, Mach number at
compressor outlet versus mass flow rate .
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Fig. (34) Static pressure distribution in the impeller of the centrifugal compressor by the present study.

Fig. (35) Static pressure distribution in the outlet volute of the centrifugal compressor by; (left) Xu and
Muller 2005, (right) the present research.

Fig. (36) Velocity vectors for the present compressor: (left) general view of the whole compressor, (right)
detailed view of the return bend.

Fig. (37) Flow path in the case without volute which show no any reverse flow.
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Fig. (38) Velocity distributions for the case without volute; (left) in the first impeller, (right) in the second
impeller.

Fig. (39) Velocity distributions for the case without volute; (left) in the third impeller, (right) in the fourth
impeller.

Fig. (40) Static pressure distributions for the modified case; (left) in the first impeller, (right) in the
second impeller.

Fig. (41) Static pressure distributions for the modified case; (left) in the third impeller, (right) in the
fourth impeller.

Fig. (42) Illustrative cut-view of the first region for surge study which is the inlet to the compressor.
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Fig. (43) Illustrative cut-view of the second and third region for surge study which is the passage of the
first impeller and section along the centerline of exit duct, respectively, of the compressor

t= 0 sec

t= 0.01 sec

t= 0.02 sec

t= 0.03 sec

t= 0.04 sec

t= 0.05 sec

Fig. (44) Surge simulation of the inlet flow at the entrance to centrifugal compressor at different time steps,
from t= 0 sec to t= 0.05 sec.

t= 0 sec

t= 0.01 sec
Fig. (45) Continued.
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t= 0.02 sec

t= 0.03 sec

t= 0.04 sec

t= 0.05 sec

Fig. (45) Surge simulation of the flow in a passage in the first impeller of the compressor at different time
steps, from t= 0 sec to t= 0.05 sec.

t= 0 sec

t= 0.01 sec
Fig. (46) Continued.

t= 0.02 sec

t= 0.03 sec

t= 0.04 sec

t= 0.05 sec

Fig. (46) Surge simulation of the flow in the outlet duct of the compressor at different time steps, from t= 0
sec to t= 0.05 sec.

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