Turbomachinery Laboratory, State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and Energy, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, China.
The pipe diffuser, an efficient kind of radial bladed diffuser, is widely used in centrifugal compressors for gas turbine engines. This paper investigates flow characteristics of a pipe diffuser for centrifugal compressors by solving three-dimensional Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes equations. The results show that the pipe diffuser is adaptable to high Mach number incoming flows, and its unique leading edge could uniform the flow distortion. Numerical analysis indicates that the choke in pipe diffuser occurs suddenly, which leads to the dramatically steep performance curves near choke condition. Besides, it is found that the first half flow passage is particularly important to the pipe diffuser performance as it influences the choking behavior, the static pressure distribution, and the matching, so more attention should be paid to this region when designing or optimizing a pipe diffuser. Two counter-rotating vortices generated in the diffuser inlet region are captured by numerical simulation, and they can exist in the downstream of the diffuser passage. More detailed analysis show that these two vortices dominate the flow structure in the whole diffuser passage by shifting flow to certain positions and forming high-momentum flow cells and wake flow cells. The leading edge formed by the intersection of adjacent diffuser passages significantly affects this pair of vortices. In addition, these two vortices also affect the flow separation in pipe diffuser flow passages, they suppress separation near the front wall and back wall while facilitate separation at center locations. Therefore, it is recommended to design the leading edge of the pipe diffuser carefully to control the vortices and obtain a better flow field.