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Numerical Studies on the Effect of Inlet Casing

Shape on Performance and Stall Margin of a


Transonic Axial Compressor

Siva Markandeyulu1, Abdul Nassar2 and Q. H. Nagpurwala3

Abstract

Enhancement of stable operating range is one of the driving forces for


current research in aeroengine compressors because of its potential benefits.
The main goal is to devise a suitable scheme to improve the compressor stall
margin without degradation in efficiency. This paper deals with the concept
of casing boundary layer control by reshaping the compressor casing upstream
of the rotor so that the boundary layer remains relatively thinner at the rotor
tip and hence is less prone to separation, thus delaying the onset of rotating
stall. Numerical simulations were performed on a transonic axial compressor.
Various upstream casing geometries, like triangular recesses with forward and
backward facing steps and recess with dual slopes were investigated for
varying height to length ratio. Contrary to the hypotheses, a forward facing
triangular step of 1:16 height to length ratio produced the desired effect in
terms of enhanced stall margin and also increased pressure ratio without
lowering the efficiency. Detailed studies showed that this casing shape helped
in achieving a thinner wall boundary layer at the rotor inlet, thus sustaining
larger rotor tip loading at lower flow rates. It is suggested that, with further
optimisation, the reshaped casing can be effectively incorporated in the
aeroengine compressors for improved performance.

Keywords: Axial Compressors, Recessed Casing, Boundary Layer Control, Stall Margin

1 Introduction
The ever-present demand for higher thrust-to-weight ratio aero engines with improved fuel
economy has resulted in the application of transonic axial compressor and fan stages. The
transonic stages produce fairly high pressure ratios at reasonably high isentropic efficiencies.

------------------------------------------------
1
Project Engineer, CADES, Bangalore (Ex-Student, RMD, MSRSAS, Bangalore), 4usiva@gmail.com
2
Sr. Lecturer, M.S. Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, nassar@msrsas.org
3
Professor, M.S. Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, nagpurwala@msrsas.org
The blade loadings are high and the major losses occur due to flow separation over the blade
and casing walls, tip leakage flows, shock boundary layer interaction, etc. Among these, the
flow separation over the blade and casing walls gives rise to the phenomena of rotating stall
and surge, severely limiting the stable operating range of the compressor and also of the
entire aero engine, eventually leading to mechanical damages. In order to extend the stability
margin of the compressor system, many advanced research strategies have been employed to
delay the occurrence of rotating stall and surge. Most of these rely upon the control of
boundary layer growth on the casing wall.

The control of casing boundary layer can be achieved by both active and passive means.
Active control involves energising the casing boundary layer by means of high velocity air
jets, located upstream of the rotor tip. Pioneering experiments were carried out by Day [1] on
a 4-stage, low speed, axial compressor. Twelve air jets were interposed between the inlet
guide vanes and the first rotor and were operated using a feedback control. Suppression of
modal perturbations produced 4-6 % improvement in stall margin. Suppression of rotating
stall using air jets, in typical transonic axial compressor stages, has been demonstrated by
Nagpurwala and Guruprasad [2]; and Suder et al [3]. The flow range was reportedly extended
by 8-10 % without drop in efficiency and the mass flow rate of the injected air was a very
small percentage of the main flow rate at the stall point.

The most researched passive method is casing treatment, which involves placing a porous
casing (honeycomb, circumferential grooves, axial slots) around the rotor tip. Several
conceivable configurations, ranging from simple honeycombs to skewed slots, were tested [4,
5], both under clean and distorted inlet flow conditions. Gains in stall margin up to 20% were
reported. The technique was found to be more effective for distorted flows.

Although, both the above techniques result in improving the stall margin, they have some
inherent drawbacks. While the air jets require additional equipment to supply high velocity
air, the casing treatment technique is marred with degradation of the compressor efficiency.
Hence a need has been felt to devise a stall control mechanism, which should be passive,
simpler to incorporate and should not result in reduction of compressor efficiency. A
technique, which has evoked considerable interest, is ‘trenching’. This involves making a
recess in the casing around the rotor tip to trip the casing boundary layer, thus allowing a
relatively more energised fluid to pass in the vicinity of the rotor tip, avoiding separation and
hence the inception of stall. Systematic investigations on the effect of trenching on
compressor performance have been reported by Wisler and Beacher [6]; and Thompson et al
[7]. Several trench geometries involving rectangular and triangular shapes were tried, mostly
on low speed compressor rotors, and covering the tip axial chord. In general, the stall margin
improved but at the expense of efficiency, because trenching resulted in either higher tip
clearances or more disturbed flow in the tip region, yielding higher tip leakage losses.

Nevertheless, the concept of trenching involves a passive device, is less expensive and
promising. This paper discusses the application of trenching in a transonic compressor, not
over the rotor tip but upstream of the rotor, so as to trip the incoming casing boundary layer
and at the same time keep the rotor tip clearance unaltered. Numerical simulations of the
flow through the compressor rotor and the inlet duct with upstream trench were performed in
order to understand the fluid dynamic phenomenon near the tip, responsible for the
effectiveness of inlet casing reshaping in delaying the onset of rotating stall.

2 Transonic Compressor Stage


The transonic compressor stage had a design pressure ratio of 1.35, mass flow rate of 20.2
kg/s and a design rotational speed of 13200 rpm. The numbers of rotor and stator blades were
21 and 18 respectively. The rotor tip diameter was 441mm with the inlet hub-tip ratio of
0.525. The rotor inlet relative Mach number varied from 1.15 at the tip to 0.75 at the hub
with a constant inlet axial Mach number of 0.58. The rotor tip clearance was 0.6 mm. The
compressor had long inlet duct with reported casing boundary layer thickness of about 10 mm
at half chord upstream of the rotor leading end [2]. More details about the compressor stage
can be found in Ref. [8].

3 Casing Reshaping
The reshaped casing geometries investigated comprised triangular recesses with forward and
backward facing steps with varying heights and lengths, as shown in Fig.1. The hypothesis
was that the incoming casing boundary layer would trip at the leading end of recess (a), thus
allowing a higher axial Mach number and a lower incidence angle at rotor inlet. This, in turn,
would delay flow separation on the blade suction surface and hence the inception of stall.
The rotor tip clearance would be unaffected because the recess was located upstream of the
rotor leading end. Figure 2 shows the schematic layout of the inlet casing including the bell-
mouth. The CAD model of the casing with bell mouth and a triangular recess is shown in
Fig.3. Figure 4 presents the meshed model of the inlet casing used for initial 2D analysis to
estimate the wall boundary layer thickness. The CAD model of the transonic compressor
stage is shown in Fig.5. The stator was not included in the performance evaluation. Details
of various recess configurations examined, and the assessment of the boundary layer growth
over them, are presented by SivaMarkandeyulu [9].

Figure 1: Different recess configurations Figure 2: Schematic layout of inlet casing


Flow direction

Figure 3: CAD model of inlet casing Figure 4: Meshed model of inlet casing with
with recess bell-mouth

4 Numerical Simulations
The numerical investigations were carried out in two phases. Phase-1 of the investigations
involved a 2-D numerical estimation of the boundary layer growth on the plain and recessed
compressor casings (without rotor). Various recess configurations were analysed in order to
arrive at the one giving thinnest boundary layer and smooth flow at the rotor leading end.
This casing recess configuration was then modeled along with the rotor (Phase-2) to study the
performance of the compressor in terms of pressure ratio, efficiency and stall margin. The
data for creating the inlet casing geometry was obtained from the test facility [8] at National
Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore. The entire task was split into two phases because of
resource limitations. The geometric modeling of the flow passage was performed using
CATIAV5 R11. The flow domain was discretised using the pre-processor GAMBIT and the
CFD analysis and post-processing were carried out using FLUENT 6.2. The flow medium
was air. Solver settings for the 2-D and 3-D computations were steady state, segregated,
implicit with standard k-epsilon turbulence model. The grid sizes for the 2-D and the 3-D
computations were 0.15 and 1.325 million elements respectively. All the elements used for
meshing were quad elements only. The discretised computational domain, including the inlet
duct and the rotor, with the boundary conditions, is shown in Fig.6.

Rotor Stator

Figure 5: CAD model of compressor stage


Figure 6: Computational domain with boundary conditions

5 Results and Discussion


5.1 Casing Boundary Layer
A large number of recess configurations (Fig.1), varying in height and length, were
numerically examined in terms of boundary layer growth and flow quality. It was found that
the configuration (c) of Fig.1, comprising a forward facing stepped triangular recess of ~ 4.7
mm height (1/16 tip chord) and 75 mm length (one tip chord) produced a lowest boundary
layer thickness of 4.84 mm at the rotor leading end location as compared to 10.89 mm with
the plain casing wall. This was quite contrary to the hypothesis that the recess configuration
(a) should have produced the thinnest boundary layer because of the expected trip at the
backward facing step. The variation of axial velocity in the inlet duct, with the recess
configuration (c), is shown in Fig.7a. A closer look at the velocity distribution revealed the
presence of separated flow region at the corner of the forward step and on the casing wall
downstream. This was eliminated by slightly rounding the two corners of the step. The final
configuration of the recess and the corresponding axial velocity distribution are shown in
Fig.7b. Also, the axial velocity profiles in the casing near the rotor leading end are shown in
Fig.8 for the recess configuration (c) with and without corner rounding (fillet). A marked
improvement in the boundary layer profile can be seen for the recess with filleted corners.

5.2 Overall Compressor Performance


The overall performance of the compressor with plain casing and the casing with optimised
recess configuration is compared in Fig.9. There is marked improvement in overall pressure
ratio and stall margin. The choke mass flow rates for the baseline plain casing and for the
recessed casing (configuration-c) are 21.80 and 22.29 kg/sec respectively. Similarly, the
maximum pressure ratio obtained for the baseline model is 1.35 and the same for the recessed
casing is 1.51. Higher pressure ratio and mass flow rate are achieved with the recessed
(a) Without fillet

(b) With fillet Figure 8: Axial velocity profiles at the


Figure 7: Axial velocity contours in the trailing end of the recess (c) with and
inlet duct with the recess configuration (c) without fillet

1.1

1
Isentropic efficiency ratio

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6

0.5
Baseline plain casing
0.4 Modified grooved casing
0.3
15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Mass flow rate (Kg/sec)

Baseline plain casing


Modified grooved casing 1A
1.6
1.5
3A
1.4
Press ratio

1.3 2A
1.2 1
1.1 2
1
15 17 19 21 23 25
Mass flow rate (Kg/Sec)

Figure 9: Overall performance of the compressor


casing configuration. Towards stall, the mass flow range is enhanced by almost 1 kg/sec, i.e.
about 5% of the stalled mass flow rate for plain casing. However, there is no appreciable
change in the compressor efficiency. Points 1 and 1A on the performance map represent
maximum efficiency points for the plain and recessed casing respectively. Points 2 and 3A
represent the stall points for the two cases and point 2A represents the mass flow rate
corresponding to the stall point 2 of the plain casing.

5.3 Flow through Rotor Blade Passages


Figure10 represents the relative Mach number distribution near the suction and pressure
surfaces of the rotor blade at maximum efficiency point for both plain casing (operating point
1) and recessed casing (operating point 1A). It is to be emphasised that these distributions
could not be obtained exactly on the suction or pressure surfaces, but are captured on the
stream surfaces slightly away from the blade surfaces. However, for the discussions here,
these distributions are referred to the blade surfaces. Considering the suction surface, the flow
features are almost similar in both the cases except that the desired flow acceleration near the
blade tip is achieved with the recessed configuration. The upstream relative Mach number
along the blade span is lower for the recessed casing than for the plain casing. This is due the
fact that the operating points 1 and 1A are not exactly at the same mass flow rate. Inspite of
this, the Mach number at the tip leading end is higher for the recessed casing. Over the
trailing end, away from the tip, the Mach numbers are low, indicative of flow separation.

Suction surface Pressure surface

Plain casing, Operating point-1

Suction surface Pressure surface

Recessed casing, Operating point-1A

Figure 10: Relative Mach number contours on rotor blade surfaces at max. efficiency points
Suction surface Pressure surface

Plain casing, Operating point-2

Suction surface Pressure surface


Recessed casing, Operating point-2A

Suction surface Pressure surface

Recessed casing, Operating point-3A

Figure 11: Relative Mach number contours on rotor blade surfaces at stall points

This also suggests that the influence of casing reshaping is confined to the tip region only.
Also, the relative Mach number at the exit is lower for the recessed casing, indicating higher
diffusion, and consequently higher pressure ratio. Mach number distribution on the pressure
surface shows that the flow pattern does not change appreciably in the presence of the
recessed casing compared to the plain casing.

Figure 11 represents the relative Mach number distribution at the rotor blade suction and
pressure surfaces at the stall points for both plain casing (operating point 2) and recessed
casing (operating point 2A and 3A). As explained earlier, the Mach numbers are captured on
the stream surfaces slightly away from the blade surfaces. For the recessed casing, the
relative Mach numbers are higher at the tip leading end. It is this flow acceleration at the
leading end, which is responsible for the enhancement of the stall margin. With increased
axial velocity in the tip region, the incidence angle reduces for the given rotational speed,
thus reducing the chances of flow separation on the forward portion of the blade suction
surface even at low mass flow rates. There is some indication of flow separation at the
trailing end, and this becomes relatively more pronounced at the operating point 3A (stall
point for recessed casing), which lies at a flow rate lower than the point 2A. Because of
higher compressor loading, the adverse pressure gradient is higher, which the suction surface
boundary layer finds difficult to sustain. Near the pressure surface, the flow over most part of
the blade is well behaved, except at the tip at operating points 2A and 3A. Low velocity
regions are observed on most part along the tip chord. It may be noted that at the stall point,
the rotor blade loading is higher, resulting in increased tip leakage flow. Although the
presence of a triangular recess upstream of the rotor leading end produces a thinner casing
boundary layer, but still the tip leakage keeps the flow structure at the end wall quite
complex.

6 Conclusion
It is established that the casing boundary layer plays an important role in initiating the
rotating stall in axial compressors. Tripping the casing boundary layer by proper recontouring
of the inlet casing, upstream of the rotor tip leading end, results in increased inlet axial
velocity with consequent lowering of the incidence angle. Hence, inspite of high blade tip
loading, a further reduction in the flow rate becomes possible with consequent increase in
stall margin. Among the various recess configurations studied, a triangular recess (with
forward facing step) of height and length equal to 1/16 and one blade chord respectively
produced the thinnest casing boundary layer. The step height of the recess is found to be an
important parameter; too large a step leads to corner flow separation and too small a step does
not produce the desired acceleration. The aerodynamic benefit of providing a recess is quite
evident from the present investigations. There is marked improvement in total pressure ratio
(~11%) and stall margin (~5%) with no appreciable change in isentropic efficiency.

Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank the Director, M.S. Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies,
Bangalore for all encouragement and permission to publish this work.

References
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treatments on stall limit and overall performance of an axial flow compressor rotor.
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