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Verifying performance of axial‐flow pump impeller with low NPSHr by using CFD

Wen‐Guang Li (Department of Fluid Machinery, Lanzhou University of Technology, Lanzhou, China)

Engineering Computations

ISSN: 0264-4401

Article publication date: 19 July 2011



A method for optimizing net positive suction head required of axial‐flow pumps has been proposed by the present author, which is based on the two‐dimensional potential flow model and without considering the tip gap effect. The objective of the paper is to confirm if the method is just and feasible for the case of viscous fluid flow in impellers with tip gap.


A series of steady, three‐dimensional, noncavitating and cavitating, turbulent, incompressible flows of water through two axial‐flow pump impellers were calculated by using CFD code Fluent. The two impellers included a reference one with constant circulation at outlet and an optimized one with variable circulation designed with the author's method and code. In computations, the throttling and unthrottling approaches were used, respectively. Comparison of hydraulic performance, averaged flow variables at the impeller inlet and exit, flow in the tip gap, flow variables on blade surfaces and suction performance between the optimized and reference impellers was made.


It was confirmed that the optimized impeller has better hydraulic and suction performances. The method for optimizing with variable flow circulation profile along blade span at the outlet to impeller is proper and practical. Additionally, an unstable regime in the head curves of two impellers is presented. In the regime, a stall occurs on the pressure side of the blade and a hysteresis exists, which causes a hysteresis‐loop.

Research limitations/implications

The effect of suction entry on flow is represented approximately by using a free‐vortex and uniform axial velocity. The diffusing component behind the impellers is not taken into account. The unsteadiness of flow is not considered, which would have a connection with stall pattern in an axial‐flow impeller.


The hydraulic and suction performances and flow variables of two axial‐flow pump impellers with tip clearance are obtained successfully with CFD. Stall and hysteresis as well as hysteresis‐loop in head curve are observed by using throttling and unthrottling approaches.



Li, W. (2011), "Verifying performance of axial‐flow pump impeller with low NPSHr by using CFD", Engineering Computations, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 557-577.



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