Environmental and regulatory pressures have prompted original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to explore highly boosted internal combustion (IC) engines as a means to minimize toxic air pollutants and meet strict legislative targets. The exhaust gas turbocharger is a key technology used to achieve the boost pressures necessary for advanced engines of the future. Centrifugal compressors with vaneless diffusers have been widely implemented in turbochargers for IC engines, particularly passenger vehicles, primarily due to their compact size and ability to deliver high-pressure ratios over a wide range of flowrates. Methods to improve compressor efficiency near surge without reducing the surge margin have received considerable interest in the past. In many situations, changes to the impeller blade design and/or diffuser are limited by the need to meet the strict engine-rated power target. Such competing demands have encouraged designers to develop variable geometry compressors with the aim of improving near surge performance without sacrificing rated power performance. The on/off-type vaned diffuser is a variable geometry compressor capable of delivering a pressure ratio benefit near surge by utilizing a vaned diffuser rather than a vaneless diffuser. The vanes are retracted prior to the diffuser choking to form a vaneless diffuser in order to reach the engine-rated power condition. Diffuser vane-shaped clearances in the hub or the shroud end wall, termed side clearances, enable axial sliding variability of the vanes into and out of the diffuser passage. Unfortunately, the clearances manifest themselves as a discontinuity in the flow field which gives rise to an efficiency penalty. It is not yet clear how the side clearance geometry and position affect the compressor performance i.e., efficiency and stability. Hence, a numerical and experimental investigation was carried out to determine the impact of side clearance geometry and end wall position on compressor performance. It was found that a side clearance positioned at the shroud end wall reduced the surge margin of the investigated compressor for both types of clearance geometry considered. In contrast to this, a clearance positioned at the hub end wall improved the compressor surge margin but had the lowest efficiency benefit near surge. An experimentally validated Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model was used to inspect the flow field and to elucidate the reasons behind the changes in compressor performance.
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