Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science 30 (2006) 427–440
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Experimental and numerical analyses to enhance the performance of a microturbine diﬀuser
Ernesto Benini * , Andrea Toﬀolo, Andrea Lazzaretto
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Padova, Via Venezia, 1, 35131 Padova, Italy
Received 8 April 2005; accepted 16 September 2005
Abstract
This paper describes design and oﬀdesign behavior of a centrifugal compressor of a 100 kW gas turbine used for small scale power generation and establishes the guidelines to improve diﬀuser performance. The ﬁrst part of the paper deals with the experimental and numerical tests on the overall machine: An extensive series of tests at diﬀerent operating points and rotational speeds is performed using steady probe measurements at impeller exit and diﬀuser exit; the numerical model features a mixing plane at impeller–diﬀuser interface and therefore neglects the eﬀect of unsteadiness due to rotor–stator interaction. In the second part of the paper, the true timedependent rotor–stator interaction is investigated by means of a numerical model where a sliding mesh technique is adopted instead. The unsteady results are then processed and compared with the computed steady ﬂow in the diﬀuser. Finally, the geometry of the compressor diﬀuser is optimized using an evolutionary algorithm coupled with a CFD code. 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Optimization; Evolutionary algorithms; Microturbines; Centrifugal compressors; Diﬀusers
1. Introduction
Microturbine centrifugal compressors require very com pact diﬀusers which must operate at the highest eﬃciency while achieving an adequate pressure recovery and ﬂow turning before the air enters the combustion chamber. Most present design conﬁgurations make use of a two stage vaned diﬀuser [1] : the ﬁrst radial row is followed by a 90 annular bend that conveys the ﬂow to an axial deswirl cascade. Little information regarding design guidelines is provided in the open literature to help accomplish the design objectives, and the diﬀuser apparatus is traditionally designed following very basic rules [2] . Two major issues have to be considered for an eﬃcient design: the most important of the two deals with the radial cascade, which is in fact the most critical because of the strong diﬀusion that occurs and because of the interaction
^{*} Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 049 8276767; fax: +39 049 8276785. Email address: ernesto.benini@unipd.it (E. Benini).
08941777/$  see front matter 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.expthermﬂusci.2005.09.003
with the impeller. The other is related to the design of the annular bend and the deswirl cascade: within these compo nents the ﬂow must not generate excessive losses (especially those originating from wall boundary layer growth and sec ondary ﬂow development) and must leave the blade row with low level of swirl (usually not greater than 15–25 ). In particular, the design of the radial cascade is diﬃcult and involves a lot of designer expertise. The ﬂow leaving the impeller is fully threedimensional, featuring highly nonuniformities between the hub and the shroud and in the circumferential direction. As a result, a very complex and timedependent ﬂow ﬁeld usually occurs in the region between the impeller tip and the diﬀuser throat due to sec ondary ﬂows that develop within the machine. This aspect has been documented by several researchers (see, among others [3,4] ). Owing to this complexity, some authors have underlined the weak points of a simple approach that attempts to describe the ﬂow entering the diﬀuser without the direct eﬀect of impeller interaction [5–7] . On the other hand, with the help of both experimental and numerical simulations, other researchers have indicated that the
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Nomenclature
c
c _{n} _{,} _{i}
C _{p} = p _{3} p _{2} / p _{0}_{2} p _{2} pressure recovery coeﬃcient of
chord length, m i th coeﬃcient of Bezier polygon
diﬀuser
F 
vector of objective functions (f _{1} , f _{2} ) 
g 
gap, m 
M 
Mach number 
m_ 
mass ﬂow rate, kg/s 
n 
rotational speed, rpm 
p 
pressure, Pa 
R 
radius, m 
r, r h , z cylindrical coordinates, m
W ^{0} average value of the generic ﬂow quantity
h angle between proﬁle leading and trailing edges, measured in the tangential direction x = p _{0}_{3} p _{0}_{2} / p _{0}_{2} p _{2} aerodynamic loss coeﬃcient of diﬀuser
Subscripts
0 
total 
1 
compressor inlet 
2 
impeller outlet, diﬀuser inlet 
3 
diﬀuser outlet 
ax 
axial diﬀuser 
t, s 
time, s 
clocking circumferential clocking 

T 
time period, s 
hub 
hub 
T 
temperature, K 
le 
leading edge 
x 
vector of decision variables 
ps 
pressure side 
x 
coordinate along chord, m 
rad 
radial diﬀuser 
g _{i}_{s} 
totaltototal isentropic eﬃciency 
ss 
suction side 
W 
generic ﬂow quantity 
te 
trailing edge 
e W ^{0} 

unsteady component of the generic ﬂow quantity 
circumferential nonuniformities are less important than those occurring from hub to shroud in the neighborhood of the best eﬃciency working point [3,8] . Moreover, many works report that the ﬂuctuations of the thermoﬂuid quantities as well as of performance parameters decay very rapidly in the diﬀuser [9–12] : the ‘‘insensitivity’’ of diﬀuser performance to the incoming pulsating ﬂow justiﬁes the highly successful diﬀuser designs that do not account for rotor–stator interaction. This fact has recently encouraged some researchers to study the ﬂow inside diﬀusers (without the impeller eﬀect) using computational ﬂuid dynamics (CFD) [13,14], and to develop methodologies to optimize diﬀuser performance. Regarding the latter, Benini and Tourlidakis [15] used a Pareto genetic algorithm and CFD to optimize the shape of a channel diﬀuser. Zangeneh et al. [16] used a 3D inverse design technique to improve the pressure recovery of a vaned diﬀuser for a given impeller. This paper deals with performance evaluation and opti mization of a centrifugal compressor diﬀuser used in a small gas turbine (100 kW). The paper is virtually divided into three parts. The ﬁrst refers to the experimental and numerical investigation on the overall compressor and dif fuser in both design and oﬀdesign conditions. The experi mental tests are performed according to both ASME and UNIISO standards. In the second part, CFD is exploited to simulate, visualize and analyze the complex ﬂow gener ated by the rotor–stator interaction, with particular emphasis on the unsteady behavior of the vaned diﬀuser. The third part deals with the numerical constrained optimi
zation of the diﬀuser apparatus (i.e. the radial and deswirl cascades) for maximum aerodynamic eﬃciency and pres sure recovery. The investigated compressor is part of the microturbine SOLAR T62, which is widely used as an auxiliary power unit (APU) in military helicopters and as a ground power unit (GPU) in small light helicopters. The turbine studied in this work is actually the ‘‘Titan’’ T62–T32, a version conceived for continuous operation that can also be used for ground electric power generation. It consists of a one stage centrifugal compressor mounted backtoback with a onestage radial inﬂow turbine wheel and an annular reverseﬂow combustion chamber ( Fig. 1 ). At the design point, the microturbine develops approximately 100 kW shaft power at the rotational speed of 60,000 rpm. Under these conditions, the pressure ratio is 3.5, the air mass ﬂow rate is 1 kg/s, turbine inlet temperature is 788 C and the exhaust gas temperature is 560 C.
2. Investigation on overall compressor and diﬀuser performance
2.1. Experimental apparatus
In order to measure the overall compressor and diﬀuser performance, a test rig was set up where the compressor was driven by the microturbine, as in normal engine oper ation. A sketch of the test rig is given in Fig. 2 . The rig con sisted of a testbed where the microturbine was mounted and connected to an eddycurrent brake, which measured
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429
Fig. 1. Cutaway drawing of the SOLAR T62–T32 microturbine.
the torque developed by the engine and the rotational speed of the output shaft. Since the compressor intake is not straight, an inlet pipe ( Fig. 3 ) was built to convey the mass ﬂow rate entering the compressor. The mass ﬂow rate was estimated by measuring the air velocity in the pipe (using a Pitot probe) and air density, as suggested in [17,18]. The mass ﬂow rate was changed by means of a gate valve positioned at the beginning of the inlet pipe. A set of calibrated probes for pressure and temperature measure ments were placed upstream and downstream of the com pression stage, as well as in between the impeller and diﬀuser. In all, the following measurement probes were used (see Fig. 2 ):
1. static pressure probes for p _{1} ;
2. rack of total pressure probes for p _{0}_{1} ;
3. total temperature probes for T _{0}_{1} ;
4. total temperature probes for T _{0}_{2} ;
5. rack of total pressure probes for p _{0}_{2} ;
6. static pressure probes for p _{2} ;
7. rack of total pressure probes for p _{0}_{3} ;
8. total temperature probes for T _{0}_{3} ;
9. static pressure probes for p _{3} ;
10. pitot probe for mass ﬂow rate.
Details on characteristic dimensions and shape of pres sure and temperature probes at impeller and diﬀuser exits can be found in Table 1 and in Figs. 4 and 5 . Note that, according to [19] , the internal cone angle of total pressure probes results in a sensitivity angle of about 25 when ﬂow is not aligned with probe axis. This made it possible to determine compressor performance over the entire operat ing range. The resolution of pressure and temperature sig nals is 100 Pa and 0.05 K, respectively. Calibration of
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Fig. 2. Sketch of compressor test rig.
Fig. 3. View of complete compressor test rig.
Table 1 

Probe characteristics 

Impeller exit 
Diﬀuser exit 

Static pressure 
No. of holes Diameter 
4 
4 

1 mm 
1 mm 

Total pressure 
No. of probes 
2 
4 racks of 2 1.2 mm 0.75 mm 30 

External diameter 
1.2 mm 

Internal 
diameter 
0.75 mm 

Internal cone angle 
30 

Total temperature 
No. of probes External diameter Internal diameter Type Insulation 
2 
4 

2 mm 
2 mm 

1.5 mm 
1.5 mm 

K 
K 

PTFE 
PTFE 
pressure transducers and thermocouples was performed using instruments having superior metrological characteris
Fig. 4. Pressure and temperature probes at impeller exit.
tics. All the probes showed a highly linear behavior within the required range of measurement. The uncertainty on the mass ﬂow measurement was determined with the help of the standard UNI EN ISO 5167 [20] . The uncertainties of the various terms are: uncer tainty at the 95% conﬁdence level in input power measure ments is about ±0.3%; uncertainty of the electromechanical eﬃciency is about ±0.9% when input power is 100 kW and electromechanical eﬃciency is 75%; uncertainty of the mass ﬂow rate is about ±0.9%; uncertainty of the pressure ratio is about ±0.6%; uncertainty of the isentropic eﬃciency is
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431
Fig. 5. Pressure and temperature probes at diﬀuser exit.
about ±1.2%; uncertainty of the compressor total eﬃciency is about ±0.9%. All measuring data were collected by a data logger into a computer that evaluated the performance parameters. As a reference for the determination of pressure ratio and isen tropic eﬃciency (totaltototal), the ambient pressure and ambient temperature were measured in the test room. Ambient humidity was registered as well. Pressure ratio and isentropic eﬃciency were evaluated from surge to choke at diﬀerent rotational speeds (100% n , 90% n , 80% n , 70% n ). Surge was determined by identifying the surge phe
nomena, that is when periodic noise and intense vibrations occurred. Diﬀuser performance parameters were also deter mined at the rotational speeds deﬁned above.
2.2. CFD simulations
In the numerical study of the compressor, a steady state analysis was performed using a mixing plane approach with a single rotating reference frame. This implies that only one impeller channel and one third part of the diﬀuser were modeled for simulation, since periodic boundaries were adopted. Using such an approach, the governing equations are solved in a reference frame that rotates at the rotational speed of the impeller. The interface between impeller and diﬀuser was modeled using a mixing plane:
thermo and ﬂuiddynamic quantities are averaged in the pitchwise direction through the mixing plane, whereas their actual distribution is maintained in the axial direction. The outlet boundary was located at diﬀuser exit. Structured sin gleblock Htype grids were used to mesh both rotating and stationary blade passages ( Fig. 6 ). The overall grid con sisted of 160,342 nodes which were partitioned in the fol lowing way: Impeller 28,353 nodes (18%), diﬀuser 131,989 nodes (82%). For simplicity, the impeller was mod eled without tip clearance. A limited number of grid sensi tivity studies were carried out to ensure a satisfactory accuracy of the ﬂow solver. For this purpose, the compres sor performance map was calculated with the baseline grid described above, as well as with two other grids: the ﬁrst was coarser (approximately 100,000 nodes) and the latter was ﬁner (approximately 250,000 nodes). Although the results are not reported here for brevity, the sensitivity analysis showed that the baseline grid featured a better capability, with respect to the coarser one, in capturing
Fig. 6. Grid used in CFD calculations.
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the compressor characteristic curve at part load. On the other hand, no noticeable improvement with respect to the baseline conﬁguration was found using the ﬁner grid. This agrees with the statements reported in [21] and with the results published in [22] : In particular, in the latter paper the authors demonstrated that most of the important eﬀects in centrifugal compressors (i.e. those related to over all performance) may be captured using a coarse grid of only 30,000 nodes, and that nearly all of the results regard ing eﬃciency and pressure rise agree well with respect to measured values. Therefore, all the results presented here were obtained using the baseline grid. Threedimensional steadystate Reynoldsaveraged Navier–Stokes equations were solved using Fluent5.4 code by Fluent, Inc. The ﬂuid was supposed to be a compressible ideal gas with constant speciﬁc heat capacities. A standard k– e model [23] was used to account for turbulence in the mean ﬂow and a wall function approach was chosen to solve the boundary layer. All walls (moving and stationary) were treated as hydraulically smooth and adiabatic. Two sets of boundary conditions, corresponding to the near choke and nearstall conditions, were considered. When operating conditions close to choking were to be analyzed, the measured values of the total pressure and total temper ature were applied at impeller inlet; at diﬀuser exit, the measured static pressure was instead prescribed: As a result, the overall mass ﬂow rate of the compressor was estimated. When the working point approached surge, the values of the mass ﬂow rate and total temperature were applied at the inlet, while the measured static pressure was applied at diﬀuser exit. All the calculated quantities were based on their massaverage values. Using such a steady state approach it was possible to simulate working condi tions even beyond the compressor stall point obtained experimentally (i.e. at reduced mass ﬂow rates). The last computation for which the CFD code was able to converge was considered a numerical estimation of the stall point because the unsteady calculations performed beyond that point featured perceivable but unstable separations.
2.3. Experimental and numerical results
The characteristic curves of the overall compressor, obtained both experimentally and numerically, are shown in Fig. 7 . The pressure ratio p _{0}_{3} / p _{0}_{1} and isentropic eﬃ ciency g _{i}_{s} are plotted as functions of the corrected mass ﬂow rate at four values of the rotational speed: n , 0.9 n , 0.8 n and 0.7 n . The experimental test showed that the com pressor has quite a narrow operating range at all rotational speeds, and that the normal working point is very close to the choke line, the corrected mass ﬂow being 1.033 kg/s and the pressure ratio 3.6. In this condition, the isentropic eﬃciency is about 0.7. This operating point presumably gives adequate margins against the occurrence of compres sor surge without heavy drawbacks on the eﬃciency. At reduced rotational speeds, the pressure ratio curves ﬂatten out and suggest how careful the operation in these condi
Fig. 7. Comparison between experimental and computed compressor characteristics.
tions should be in order to avoid the occurrence of ﬂow instabilities. In some cases, signiﬁcant diﬀerences were registered in the code computing accuracy concerning pressure ratio and eﬃ ciency. At nominal rotational speed, predictions of the pres sure ratio are excellent over the whole operating range, while those regarding the eﬃciency are less accurate, the maximum discrepancy being in the order of 4%. At reduced rotational speeds, computed values of the eﬃciency are quantitatively better while those of pressure ratio are worse (i.e. the code underestimates the pressure rise). In fact, as the rotational speed reduces, the computed characteristic curves are shifted toward lower values of the mass ﬂow rate, i.e. the code found some diﬃculties in capturing the choke condition. While examining these results, however, the uncertainty on exper imental data as well as the limitations of the steady state approach and of the turbulence model, especially at part load, must be properly taken into account: the use of the steadystate approach, in particular, is known to give mis leading results when the operating conditions are very far from the nominal one and strong recirculations at impel ler–diﬀuser interface are usually observed. In this case, how ever, the use of a mixing plane still gives acceptable results because of the narrow operating range of the compressor. Also, the authors believe that some of the discrepancies could be explained with the absence of the tip clearance in the numerical simulations, which would limit the maximum mass ﬂow rate to some extents and would contribute to a reduction in the total pressure ratio and eﬃciency. The characteristic curves of the diﬀuser are reported in Fig. 8 . They show both the experimental and computed val ues of the pressure recovery coeﬃcient C _{p} and the aerody namic loss coeﬃcient x as functions of the corrected mass ﬂow rate. At the nominal speed, the measured pressure recovery coeﬃcient decreases from 0.5 to 0.45 as the mass ﬂow rate increases from stall to choke (i.e. as the angle of the absolute velocity with respect the tangential direction
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433
Fig. 8. Comparison between experimental and computed diﬀuser characteristics.
increases from 19.4 to 19.9 ). In such conditions, the aero dynamic loss coeﬃcient increases from 0.45 to 0.51. The same tendency is qualitatively observed at reduced speeds, even though the pressure recovery coeﬃcient is higher at part load, because the dynamic pressure at impel ler exit decreases much more than the diﬀuser pressure recovery. On the other hand, the aerodynamic loss coeﬃ cient reduces slightly at lower mass ﬂow rates due to the fast decrement of the total pressure loss within the diﬀuser. Because of the lack of measurement probes in the annular bend, it was not possible to isolate the eﬀect of the radial and axial blade rows on overall diﬀuser performance and, therefore, to establish whether or not the axial deswirl cascade has a negative eﬀect on compressor eﬃciency and stability. The agreement between the numerical and experi mental results is good at design nominal speed, whereas areas of relatively poor code accuracy were found at reduced rotational speed. Again, this can be justiﬁed if the simpliﬁcations of the numerical model at impeller–dif fuser interface are taken into account. In any case, the overall results suggest that the CFD model is suﬃciently accurate to give realistic indications on diﬀuser perfor mance within the overall compressor operating range.
3. Numerical analysis of impeller–diﬀuser interaction
3.1. Objectives and approach
Viscous and potential eﬀects of rotor–stator interaction are comparable in highspeed centrifugal compressors, since the mixing process that rotor blade wakes undergo is very fast, and the radial gap between rotors and vaned
diﬀusers is usually very small. As a consequence, a mutual interaction occurs between the components. The inﬂuence of the impeller on diﬀuser ﬂow is mainly characterized by viscous eﬀects caused by rotor wakes, while the inﬂuence of the diﬀuser on the impeller ﬂow is mainly caused by potential eﬀects [1,24,25] . However, a number of experi mental works [3,8,12,26] have shown that the circumferen tial ﬂow nonuniformity at impeller exit mixes out very rapidly near the design point, so diﬀuser ﬂow can be very well approximated as steady. Dawes [5] and Yamane et al. [27] compared a steady approach featuring a mixing plane between impeller and vaned diﬀuser and the corre sponding fullycoupled unsteady approach. They clearly showed the inﬂuence of unsteady eﬀects in impeller and dif fuser, in particular the unsteady eﬀects due to the highly distorted impeller ﬂow ﬁeld (both circumferentially and axially) and those due to the wakes released by impeller blades. In this work, two approaches were investigated:
the unsteadyfullycoupled and a steadydecoupled approach, in which each blade row is treated separately by steady computations and ﬂow quantities at the interface are averaged in time and in the circumferential direction (while preserving their spanwise distribution). The latter approach gives satisfactory results provided that a proper averaging is carried out, and this may be not the case when the spacing between the blade rows is small. An alternative strategy is the frozen rotor approach (see, among others [28] ), in which steady calculations are performed in a num ber of ﬁxed impeller–diﬀuser positions. However it was not explored here because its features are taken from both the other approaches and do not help to achieve either accu racy or computational speediness.
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The objective of the work is twofold: (i) to achieve a bet ter understanding of the unsteady ﬂow phenomena involved during the interaction; (ii) to assess a quantitative measure of ﬂow unsteadiness within the diﬀuser, in order to verify how much diﬀuser performance is aﬀected by the presence of the impeller. The latter objective is fundamen tal in the optimization of the diﬀuser apparatus, described in the next section, where several time consuming CFD cal culations are needed to achieve the ﬁnal solution. A fully realistic diﬀuser can be modeled without the upstream impeller provided that the boundary condition at the inter face accurately simulates the presence of the impeller. A typical diﬃculty associated with multirow simula tions is that each blade row generally has a diﬀerent num ber of blades, and that the ratio between the rotor and stator blades (or its inverse) is not an integer value. In our case, due to the lack of periodicity in the blade number of compressor components, the number of blades of the diﬀuser was modiﬁed (12blades radial and 36blades des wirl), in order to simplify the ﬂow domain and reduce the computational eﬀort. As a result, it should not be expected that the computed solution represents accurately the real ﬂow within the original conﬁguration. However, the pur pose here was much more focused on assessing a method ology for studying the interaction rather than simulating the real ﬂow. The resulting ﬂow domain was divided into three blocks, each representing a quarter of the real physi cal domain, for the impeller, the radial and deswirl diﬀus ers, respectively. The assembled grid consisted of about 100,000 nodes. The impeller was modeled without tip clearance. The unsteady stator–rotor simulations were carried out using the CFD code Fluent ^{T}^{M} , by Fluent Inc., where a slid ing mesh technique was utilized. The unsteady 3D Rey noldsaveraged Navier–Stokes (RANS) equations for a compressible ideal gas were solved along with a Spalart– Allmaras turbulence model [29] . Standard wall functions were used to link the solution variables at the nearwall cells and the corresponding quantities on the wall. Bound ary conditions were imposed as follows: the total pressure and total temperature were applied at impeller inlet ( p _{0}_{1} = 101325 Pa, T _{0}_{1} = 288.1 K), where the ﬂow was sup posed to be swirlfree; a constant value of the static pres sure was maintained at the outlet of the deswirl diﬀuser ( p _{3} = 193913 Pa).
3.2. Results
The unsteady computations were carried out using a time step Dt = 4 · 10 ^{} ^{6} s, which corresponds to 1.47 of impeller rotation. The chosen time step was the maximum that made it possible to capture the ﬂow unsteadiness with reasonable accuracy avoiding the increase of the computa tional eﬀort beyond unacceptable limits. An unsteady run required about 50 h to reach a periodic solution on a Workstation AlphaServer ES40, clock 667 MHz, 1.5 GB RAM. The periodicity of the pressure signal at a point
located between impeller and diﬀuser blades was consid ered as a convergence criterion, which was typically satis ﬁed after one to two complete impeller revolutions. The time average of the unsteady solution was calcu lated by means of an inhouse postprocessing tool in order to isolate the unsteady components of the ﬂow quantities. The unsteady component of the generic quantity W (r , h , z , t) was calculated as follows:
_{W} 0 _{ð} _{r} _{;} _{h} _{;} _{z} _{;} _{t} _{Þ} _{¼} W ð r ; h ; z ; t Þ W ð r ; h ; z Þ
e
W ð r ; h ; z Þ
where
ð
1 Þ
W ðr ; h ; z Þ ¼
T Z T
1
0
W ð r ; h ; z ; t Þ d t
ð 2 Þ
The instantaneous contours of pressure and Mach num
ber and of their unsteady components ~p ^{0} and M ^{0} are reported in Figs. 9 and 10 , respectively, on a plane which cuts blade passages at impeller exit midspan. These plots correspond to various instants in time during the period T, i.e. the time required for the rotor blade to cover the dis tance corresponding to one rotor pitch. Note that quanti ties are timeaveraged with reference to the absolute frame in the diﬀuser, whereas, quantities are timeaveraged with reference to the rotating frame in the sliding mesh por tion including the impeller. As a consequence, a discontinu ity at the impeller–diﬀuser interface appears in Figs. 9(b) and 10 (b). The jet ﬂow leaving the impeller is periodically cut by the diﬀuser leading edge, and this causes periodic pressure ﬂuctuations on both impeller trailing edges and diﬀuser leading edges. Thus, the largest part of ﬂow unsteadiness comes from the potential eﬀect, which follows the periodic cycles of rotating blade positions relative to the stationary one, and is conﬁned in the semivaneless gap between the impeller and radial diﬀuser. The magnitude of such unsteadiness is in the order of ±10% for both the pressure and Mach number, the core being located very close to the middle of the gap between the rotating and stationary com ponents. As the ﬂow mixes out in the diﬀuser, the unstead iness reduces rapidly and the ﬂow becomes nearly steady. It is worth noting that the ﬂow within the radial diﬀuser, in particular toward the trailing edge, is almost insensitive to the unsteadiness generated by the impeller. However, quite large ﬂuctuations of the Mach number can be identi ﬁed in the diﬀuser along the surfaces of the radial cascade, both on the pressure and suction sides. These ﬂuctuations are probably due to the fact that the stagger angle of the radial cascade is not properly matched with the angle of the ﬂow leaving the impeller. Therefore, the ﬂow acceler ates or decelerates according to the reciprocal position between the impeller and diﬀuser blades, i.e. according to both the interception of the jets from the impeller by the radial proﬁle itself (wake eﬀect) and the oscillations of the pressure ﬁeld in the gap between impeller and diﬀuser cascades (potential eﬀect).
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435
Fig. 9. Instantaneous contours of pressure at diﬀuser midspan for diﬀerent impeller blade positions (a) and instantaneous contours of unsteady pres sure (b).
Fig. 10. Instantaneous contours of Mach number at diﬀuser midspan for diﬀerent impeller blade positions (a) and instantaneous contours of unsteady Mach number (b).
The unsteady performance coeﬃcients ( x and C _{p} ) of the overall diﬀuser apparatus were calculated as well, and their values are reported in Fig. 11 as a function of the impeller revolutions counter. The massﬂow weighted average val ues were calculated and made dimensionless with respect
to their time average value: it can be noted that the ﬂuctu ations of x are less than ±0.5% and those of C _{p} are even less. The time averaged values of x and C _{p} were then com pared with those obtained from a steady simulation regard ing the diﬀuser alone, i.e. without the impeller. This
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Fig. 11. Comparison between steady and unsteady performance coeﬃ cients of the diﬀuser apparatus.
simulation was carried out using the same solver, settings and grid: the values of the relevant quantities of the unsteady solution, averaged with respect to time and mass ﬂow rate, were assigned as boundary condition at diﬀuser inlet. In this way the dynamic eﬀect of the impeller was neglected. In particular, time and circumferentiallymass averaged values of the total pressure and total temperature were applied at diﬀuser inlet; time and massaveraged value for the static pressure was instead ﬁxed at diﬀuser outlet. The results of the steady calculation are given in Fig. 11 and compared with those of the unsteady computation. The diﬀerences are virtually negligible: 1.9% in x, 0.6% in C _{p} . These results apparently demonstrate that, from the point of view of diﬀuser performance, the presence of the impeller can be reproduced by assigning averaged and steady boundary conditions at impeller outlet.
4. Optimization of diﬀuser performance
4.1. Objectives and approach
In this section, a numerical multiobjective optimization of the radial and deswirl cascades of the centrifugal com pressor is accomplished through an iterative procedure based on the combination between a MultiObjective Evo lutionary Algorithm (MOEA) and a CFD model of the dif fuser. The aim is to develop a set of diﬀuser designs achieving maximum pressure rise (maximum C _{p} ) and min imum total pressure loss (maximum 1 x) at the design condition (see previous section). These designs have also to ﬁt into the radial and axial sizes of the original one, per haps adjusting the radius between the radial and the des wirl sections. The optimization problem is to maximize the twoobjective function:
ð3 Þ
F ð xÞ¼ð f _{1} ; f _{2} Þ¼ðC _{p} ; 1 xÞ
where x is the vector of design optimization parameters, that is the decision variables of the problem. The chosen objectives cannot be satisﬁed simultaneously by a single design, since maximum pressure rise is achieved through high aerodynamic loading on blade proﬁles, resulting in higher total pressure losses, whereas minimum total pressure loss is obtained using low solidity cascades to minimize friction losses, without altering too much ﬂow tangential direction. Thus, Pareto optimality is used to rank the solutions examined during the optimization pro cess and to obtain the true tradeoﬀ solutions between the two objectives (Pareto front). A special evaluation method is applied in order to improve the search capabili ties of the MOEA and to spread the optimal solutions as uniformly as possible along the Pareto front [30] .
4.2. Deﬁnition of design parameters
Since the optimal designs have to ﬁt into the overall size of the original one in the meridional plane, the following dimensions are chosen as optimization parameters (see Fig. 12 ): the radius R _{h}_{u}_{b} of the arc linking the radial and the deswirl sections of the diﬀuser in a meridional plane; the radial coordinate R _{l}_{e}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} of the radial proﬁle leading edge; the radial clearance g _{t}_{e}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} between the radial proﬁle trailing edge and the radius linking the two sections; the angle h _{r}_{a}_{d} between the radial proﬁle leading and trailing edges, with respect to the tangential direction; the axial clearance g _{l}_{e}_{,}_{a}_{x} between the deswirl proﬁle leading edge and the radius linking the two sections; the angle h _{a}_{x} between the deswirl proﬁle leading and trailing edges, with respect to the tangential direction; the tangential clocking h _{c}_{l}_{o}_{c}_{k}_{i}_{n}_{g} between the leading edges of the radial and the deswirl proﬁles. The number of blades of both radial and deswirl sec tions (12 and 36, respectively) is the one used in the previ ous section. The shape of blade proﬁles is described using two Bezier parametric curves (one for the pressure side and one for the suction side). The nondimensional Carte sian coordinates of each curve x , y _{p}_{s} and x , y _{s}_{s} are deﬁned by n + 1 control points constituting the Bezier polygon according to the following expression:
n
f x ðt Þ ; y _{p}_{s} ð t Þ; y _{s}_{s} ð t Þg ¼ ^{X} c _{n}_{;} _{i} t ^{i} ð 1 t Þ ^{n} ^{} ^{i} f x _{i} ; y _{p}_{s}_{;} _{i} ; y _{s}_{s} _{;} _{i} g
i ¼ 0
ð 4 Þ
where t 2 [0, 1] is the nondimensional parameter and c _{n} _{,} _{i} = n !/( i !( n i )!). The n + 1 control points coordinates x _{i} , y _{p}_{s}_{,} _{i} , y _{s}_{s}_{,} _{i} are deﬁned as follows:
x _{i} ¼ 0 ; 0 ; x _{2} ;
; x _{n} _{} _{2} ; 1 ; 1
y _{p}_{s} _{;} _{i} ¼ 0 ; d _{l}_{e} ;
y _{s}_{s} _{;} _{i} ¼ 0 ; þd _{l}_{e} ;
where d _{l}_{e} and d _{t}_{e} ﬁx the thickness of the leading and trailing edges, respectively, and y _{c}_{l}_{,} _{i} and d _{i} are the actual optimiza tion parameters for blade shape geometry. This parameter ization is inspired by the wellknown practice of
; y _{c}_{l} _{;} _{i} d _{i} ;
; y _{c}_{l} _{;} _{i} þ d _{i} ;
; d _{t}_{e} ; 0
; þ d _{t}_{e} ; 0
ð
5 Þ
E. Benini et al. / Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science 30 (2006) 427–440
437
Fig. 12. Deﬁnition of optimization parameters.
superimposing a thickness distribution to a chamber line and avoids the generation of intersecting pressure and suction side curves. The geometry of the diﬀuser radial and deswirl blades is described here using seven and six
control points, respectively (6 and 4 decision variables). The total number of optimization parameters is therefore
17.
According to the geometrical constraints, the ranges of variation chosen for most optimization variables are nar row and centered around the corresponding values of the original design. The main exception to this criterion is rep resented by the value of h _{r}_{a}_{d} , which is varied in a range that does not include the original value. The shape of the des wirl proﬁle is also allowed to vary more freely than that of the radial proﬁle. The ranges of variation for all the opti mization variables are summarized in Table 2 .
Table 2 Ranges of optimization parameters
Variable 
Unit 
Original 
Min 
Max 

R 
_{h}_{u}_{b} 
mm 
9.5 
8 
12 
R 
_{l}_{e}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} 
mm 
84 
82 
86 
g 
_{t}_{e}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} 
mm 
3.5 
2 
6 
h 
_{r}_{a}_{d} 

40 
25 
35 
y 
_{1}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} 
– 
0.02 
0.015 
0.025 
y 
_{2}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} 
– 
0.055 
0.05 
0.06 
y 
_{3}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} 
– 
0.06 
0.04 
0.08 
d 
_{1}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} 
– 
0.03 
0.025 
0.035 
d 
_{2}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} 
– 
0.065 
0.055 
0.075 
d 
_{3}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} 
– 
0.055 
0.035 
0.075 
g 
_{l}_{e}_{,}_{a}_{x} 
mm 
2.5 
1 
3 
h 
_{a}_{x} 

5 
28 

y 
_{1}_{,}_{a}_{x} 
– 
0.12 
0 
0.2 
y 
_{2}_{,}_{a}_{x} 
– 
0.12 
0 
0.2 
d 
_{1}_{,}_{a}_{x} 
– 
0.055 
0.02 
0.1 
d 
_{2}_{,}_{a}_{x} 
– 
0.055 
0.02 
0.1 
h 
clocking 

6.1 
0 
10 
4.3. Results and discussion
The optimization algorithm was run for 40 generations with a population size of 50 individuals. The most impor tant design parameters and the corresponding objective function values for the last generation of solution are pre sented in Fig. 13 . Note that performance indexes of the ori ginal design are too low ( C _{p} = 0.45 and 1 x = 0.5) to appear in the Figure. It is apparent that all the individuals fall in a narrow strip of the plane deﬁned by the two objec tive functions C _{p} and 1 x . As a matter of fact, the con ﬂict between the objectives seems of little account, but this is simply because of the tight ranges of variation assigned to the optimization variables. The Pareto front is made of only two individuals, one of them maximizing pressure recovery (marked in red) and the other minimizing total pressure losses (marked in blue). These optimal solu tions are compared to the original design in Fig. 13 .
4.3.1. The radial proﬁle The shape of the optimal radial proﬁles is very similar to the original one because of the limits imposed on the vari ation of its Bezier control points. On the other hand, the stagger angle, which is varied in a wider range, seems to be the most signiﬁcant design parameter. The optimized solutions have a much lower value of h _{r}_{a}_{d} than the original design (40 ). This results in higher pressure recovery, because of reduced tangential velocity components, as well as in lower total pressure losses because of better incidence angles and less friction on shorter proﬁles. h _{r}_{a}_{d} being approximately the same, the actual conﬂict between the two objectives owing to two opposite trends toward shorter proﬁles to minimize losses and toward longer proﬁles to maximize pressure rise. The radial coordinate of the leading edge R _{l}_{e}_{,}_{r}_{a}_{d} tends toward its maximum value to shorten the proﬁle and to allow an initial pressure recovery without blade friction, that is with lower total pressure losses. This fact agrees with
438
E. Benini et al. / Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science 30 (2006) 427–440
Fig. 13. Results of optimization.
the experimental results published in the literature about highspeed compressors (see, among others [31] ). In fact, as the absolute Mach number of the ﬂow leaving the impel ler is quite high, a longer vaneless gap is needed to reduce the Mach number level, and therefore losses, before enter ing the vanes. The optimized proﬁles are also less thick than the original ones, resulting in a higher pressure rise. Even though ﬂow separation near the trailing edge is more likely for thinner proﬁles, it does not happen in this case due to the small ranges of variation imposed on the shape of the proﬁle.
4.3.2. The meridional channel
The radius R _{h}_{u}_{b} linking the radial and the axial section of the meridional channel tends to its maximum value for both the optimal designs. This is reasonable, since the loss related to secondary ﬂows in the bend and downstream of it is reduced. The enlargement of the gap between the radial coordinate of the trailing edge and the beginning of the curvature may also be responsible for this reduction.
4.3.3. The deswirl proﬁle
The orientation of the deswirl proﬁle in the optimized designs cannot be analyzed separately from the ﬂow devia tion imposed by the radial cascade of the diﬀuser. Since h _{r}_{a}_{d} is lower than in the original design, the tangential velocity of the ﬂow entering the deswirl cascade is lower because of the conservation of the tangential momentum. On the other hand, the meridional velocity is also lower because of the conservation of meridional momentum, since R _{h}_{u}_{b} is larger in the optimized designs. The latter eﬀect prevails over the former, and the result is a stagger
angle, measured by h _{a}_{x} , that is higher than in the original design. Even though the vanishing of the tangential compo nent through the deswirl cascade would result in the max imum pressure recovery, the exit angle of the optimized designs is far from the value that would fulﬁll this condi tion. Perhaps the chord of the proﬁle is too short to accom plish the ideal deviation at the expense of a negligible increase in total pressure losses. Finally, the optimized clocking h _{c}_{l}_{o}_{c}_{k}_{i}_{n}_{g} is achieved when the wake of the radial proﬁle wraps one of the deswirl proﬁles.
5. Practical signiﬁcance/usefulness
The methodology described in the ﬁrst part of the paper signiﬁcantly reduces the computational eﬀort required to perform CFD analyses on rotating machinery featuring highspeed ﬂows, compressibility issues, rotor/stator inter action and problems related to the deﬁnition of proper boundary conditions. This can be achieved without compro mises on the accuracy of the numerical results, as certiﬁed by the validation presented. The ultimate goal is to use such approaches to tackle complex optimization problems using advanced mathematical techniques. From this point of view, evolutionary algorithms show very attractive potentials in the exploration of wide search spaces with many decision variables and complex and conﬂicting objective functions.
6. Conclusions
In this paper, experimental and numerical analyses were used to achieve performance enhancements of a micro turbine diﬀuser.
E. Benini et al. / Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science 30 (2006) 427–440
439
First of all, a methodology for testing the centrifugal compressor was presented. A test rig was set up and equipped with pressure and temperature probes at impeller inlet and outlet and at diﬀuser exit. The tests were carried out according to both ASME and UNIISO standards. A numerical model based on 3D CFD was also carried out and validated against the experimental data. The numerical results regarding the pressure ratio at the nominal speed agree with the experimental data; those concerning the isentropic eﬃciency show poorer agreement (computed eﬃ ciency is higher). At reduced speeds, the numerical model overestimates the pressure ratio to some extent, whereas calculated eﬃciency is much closer to the measured one; at the same time, the mass ﬂow rate at choking is a little lower than the one observed experimentally. These facts may be explained by the absence of the tip clearance in the numerical model of the impeller (see also the discussion in Section 2.3 ). The diﬀuser maps showed that the pressure recovery and aerodynamic losses are apparent functions of the mass ﬂow rate for a given compressor rotational speed. The absence of measurement probes in the space between the radial and deswirl blade rows did not make it possible to describe the behavior of each cascade, even though it is known that the actual pressure recovery in the last row is not likely to be high; its function is mainly to remove swirl before the ﬂow enters the combustor. However, the eﬀect of the axial deswirl diﬀuser should be investigated further in order to establish its inﬂuence on compressor eﬃciency and stability. The numerical results showed that the steady approach is suﬃciently accurate to predict the characteris tics of the diﬀuser, at least for the nominal rotational speed. At reduced speeds, in particular at part loads and near compressor stall, somewhat poor agreement with the experimental data suggests that diﬀuser performance could be signiﬁcantly inﬂuenced by the jetwake and recirculation ﬂow structures which the CFD model, being based on a mixing plane approach, obviously was not able to capture. In the second part of the paper, two approaches for the analysis of impeller–diﬀuser interaction in the centrifugal compressor stage were examined. The ﬁrst approach was based on the fullycoupled unsteady solution of the ﬂow ﬁeld; the latter assumed time and spaceaveraged bound ary conditions at the interface between the impeller and dif fuser with which a steady and decoupled solution was obtained. The unsteady simulation made it possible to ana lyze and understand the details of the main sources of ﬂow ﬁeld ﬂuctuations. The amplitudes of these ﬂuctuations are remarkable only in the semivaneless gap, whereas the dif fuser blade channel is not substantially involved in these phenomena. This fact is conﬁrmed by the agreement with the results of the steady simulation, performance indexes being virtually identical. The results of both approaches highlight that some of the geometrical characteristics of the diﬀuser are not properly matched to the ﬂow leaving the impeller, leading to a poor overall diﬀuser performance. In the third part of the paper, the diﬀuser design was optimized focusing the attention on the cascade parame
ters, and leaving the size of the meridional channel unchanged. The aim was to obtain the maximum pressure rise at the minimum total pressure loss. The conﬂict between the two objective is minimal, owing to the tight constraints imposed to the chosen design variables. The most signiﬁcant diﬀerences from the original design are the lower stagger angle of the radial proﬁle, leading to higher pressure rises, and the lower chamber of the deswirl proﬁle, which actually hardly deﬂects the ﬂow resulting in lower total pressure losses. The optimization of diﬀuser performance focusing on the design point only is meaning ful, since the operating range of this microturbine centrifu gal compressor is very narrow. In oﬀdesign conditions, in fact, choking or stall occur before performance drops due to unsatisfactory design solutions.
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