The characteristics of a rotating stall of an impeller and diffuser and the evolution of a vortex generated at the diffuser leading-edge (i.e., the leading-edge vortex (LEV)) in a centrifugal compressor were investigated by experiments and numerical analysis. The results of the experiments revealed that both the impeller and diffuser rotating stalls occurred at 55 and 25 Hz during off-design flow operation. For both, stall cells existed only on the shroud side of the flow passages, which is very close to the source location of the LEV. According to the CFD results, the LEV is made up of multiple vortices. The LEV is a combination of a separated vortex near the leading- edge and a longitudinal vortex generated by the extended tip-leakage flow from the impeller. Therefore, the LEV is generated by the accumulation of vorticity caused by the velocity gradient of the impeller discharge flow. In partial-flow operation, the spanwise extent and the position of the LEV origin are temporarily transmuted. The LEV develops with a drop in the velocity in the diffuser passage and forms a significant blockage within the diffuser passage. Therefore, the LEV may be regarded as being one of the causes of a diffuser stall in a centrifugal compressor.
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