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SCIENCE CHINA

Technological Sciences
Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012 tech.scichina.com www.springerlink.com

*Corresponding author (email: zhengxq@tsinghua.edu.cn)
RESEARCH PAPER
June 2012 Vol.55 No.6: 16951700
doi: 10.1007/s11431-012-4822-9
A novel experimental method to evaluate the impact of volutes
asymmetry on the performance of a high pressure ratio
turbocharger compressor
LIN Yun
1
, ZHENG XinQian
1*
, JIN Lei
1
, TAMAKI Hideaki
2
& KAWAKUBO Tomoki
2

1
State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and Energy, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;
2
IHI Corporation, Tokyo, Japan
Received October 7, 2011; accepted March 7, 2012; published online March 21, 2012

All components of a turbocharger compressor are axisymmetric except for the spiral-shaped, gas-collecting overhung volute.
In this paper, a novel experimental method to evaluate the impact of the volutes asymmetry on centrifugal compressor per-
formance is proposed and applied to a high pressure-ratio turbocharger compressor. This method can isolate the impact of the
volutes asymmetry on the compressor performance for the first time. Experiments prove the considerable impact of the vo-
lutes asymmetry on the compressor performance, especially the stability and efficiency. The impact of the volutes asymmetry
on compressor stability correlates with rotational speed and thus with the pressure ratio, constricting the stable flow range by
up to 47 percent and decreasing the maximum efficiency by 4.8 percent at the design speed. The results provide evidence to
exploit the potential of intrinsic non-axisymmetric flow induced by asymmetric volute to improve the performance of turbo-
charger compressor with a high pressure ratio.
high pressure-ratio, turbocharger, centrifugal compressor volute, IC engine

Citation: Lin Y, Zheng X Q, Jin L, et al. A novel experimental method to evaluate the impact of volutes asymmetry on the performance of a high pressure ra-
tio turbocharger compressor. Sci China Tech Sci, 2012, 55: 16951700, doi: 10.1007/s11431-012-4822-9



1 Introduction
Turbocharging has become indispensable for diesel engines
and is increasingly used in gasoline engines. The technol-
ogy was first used as a means to increase the engine power
density, but its benefits are more highlighted in downsizing
and emission control nowadays [1]. Turbocharging makes it
possible to significantly downsize vehicle engines, thereby
lowering fuel consumption and reducing its CO
2
emissions
[2]. Furthermore, it is important to facilitate NOx treatment
with high exhaust gas recirculation rates to satisfy future
rigid emission regulations [3].
In order to meet the future demands of fuel economy and
emission regulations, the diesel engine turbocharger devel-
opment has continuously aimed at a higher boost pressure.
Unfortunately, this high boost pressure always comes with
the added cost of deteriorating the stable flow range and the
efficiency of the compressor [4]. Thus, widening the stable
flow range as well as increasing the efficiency is the key
issue for future high pressure-ratio compressor design and
development.
A turbocharger centrifugal compressor comprises an im-
peller, a diffuser and a volute. While the former two parts
are axisymmetric in the circumferential direction, the volute
is asymmetric to serve its role in gas collection. It is usually
designed as a spiral-shaped, overhung housing that collects
air from the diffuser and passes it to the pipe system. Re-

1696 Lin Y, et al. Sci China Tech Sci June (2012) Vol.55 No.6
cently, the non-axisymmetric flow induced by the volute in
centrifugal compressors has attracted much attention. With
the increasing compressor pressure ratio, the flow in the
impeller becomes transonic. This makes the compressor
characteristics more sensitive to the non-axisymmetric flow,
which magnifies the impact of the volutes asymmetry on
compressor performance. Sufficient data have been ob-
tained by detailed experiments to confirm the existence of
this non-axisymmetric flow in the centrifugal compressor
volute [57]. The volute is usually designed in a way to
distribute a circumferentially constant static pressure along
the volute section at a design condition. However, at
off-design conditions, the volute acts as a diffuser or nozzle
at lower or higher flow rates, respectively; this causes a
rotationally non-axisymmetric pressure distribution in the
diffuser exit. It has been confirmed that this
non-axisymmetric pressure distribution induced by the vo-
lute has a considerable impact on the upstream components,
including the diffuser and the impeller [8, 9]. The experi-
ment conducted by Sorokes et al. [10] confirmed that the
pressure non-uniformity induced by the volute in a subsonic
centrifugal compressor extended upstream the impeller inlet,
implying that the impeller was subjected to varying inlet
and exit conditions, which led to deteriorating performance.
The measurements and analysis conducted by Zheng et al.
[11] indicated that the flow distortions in a high pressure
ratio compressor impeller were much more severe, which
implies that the non-axisymmetric flow induced by the vo-
lute is of utmost importance for the performance of a high
pressure-ratio compressor.
Meanwhile, numerical simulations have also been carried
out to analyze the flow phenomena and mechanism in detail.
Many numerical simulations succeeded to reproduce results
obtained from experiment measurements [1215]. A
three-dimensional unsteady analysis of the flow in the im-
peller was conducted by Fatsis et al. [16], indicating that the
circumferential distortion of the outlet static pressure
propagates upstream and has an impact on the incidence of
the blade leading edges as well as other parameters. Gu et al.
[17, 18] investigated the effect of the slope of circumferen-
tial static pressure variation at the impeller exit on per-
formance at off-design conditions, and concluded that
circumferentially increasing pressure in the rotating direc-
tion at the impeller exit lowered down the efficiency of the
impeller.
The most referenced works merely showed qualitative
results about the impact of volutes asymmetry on the per-
formance. Zheng et al. [19] conducted the first work that
gave quantitative estimations of the impact of the asymmet-
ric volute on the stability of a high pressure-ratio centrifugal
compressor. They compared the performances of a com-
pressor with and without the volute using three-dimensional
viscous CFD. The volute was found to harm the flow stabil-
ity severely. The relative constriction in stable flow range
was up to 42 percent at the design speed, which indicated
that the volute is an important factor for determining the
stable flow range of a high pressure-ratio centrifugal com-
pressor. However, the numerical results with and without
the volute cannot be confirmed by experiments, since the
volute is necessary for an actual centrifugal compressor. To
the authors knowledge, no experimental work that can give
a reliable quantitative evaluation of the impact of the vo-
lutes asymmetry on the overall performance of a centrifu-
gal compressor is published. In this work, a novel experi-
mental method to evaluate the impact of the volutes
asymmetry on the performance (especially the stable flow
range and efficiency) of a centrifugal compressor is pro-
posed and applied to a high pressure-ratio centrifugal com-
pressor. Quantitative results are presented and analyzed.
2 A novel experimental method
An intuitive way to investigate the effect of volutes asym-
metry on the performance of the centrifugal compressor
would be to try to alleviate the magnitude of the flow varia-
tion induced by the asymmetric volute and then evaluate the
performance change. This may be possible, but it would
inevitably impose new influencing factors by modifying the
original compressor structure. That means the volutes
asymmetry is not the single factor to affect the performance.
Therefore, in order to evaluate the effect of the volutes
asymmetry, an experimental method that is able to eliminate
the impact of any new influencing factors and isolate the
flow asymmetry as the sole variable is required.
In the proposed experimental method, the axisymmetric
vaneless diffuser is redesigned to be non-axisymmetric,
which will create a non-axisymmetric flow pattern in the
vaneless diffuser even without the asymmetric volute. The
interaction of this asymmetric diffuser and the volute will
change the pattern of the non-axisymmetric flow at the out-
let of the impeller. Since the non-axisymmetric flow in the
impeller results from distortions propagating from the im-
peller outlet, the new non-axisymmetric flow pattern in-
duced by the asymmetric diffuser and volute is supposed to
change the non-axisymmetric flow pattern in the impeller
and therefore lead to changes in compressor performance. If
the volute is rotated in the circumferential direction relative
to the asymmetric diffuser, the non-axisymmetric flow pat-
tern at the impeller outlet will change. In the proposed ex-
perimental method, four cases with different circumferential
arrangements of the volute relative to the asymmetric dif-
fuser were tested. These cases share the same asymmetric
diffuser, volute and impeller, the only difference between
them is the angle of rotation of the volute relative to the
asymmetric diffuser (i.e. the only difference is the phase
angle of the asymmetric diffuser relative to the volute), as
shown in Figure 1.
The performance difference between these cases is due to
the different arrangements of the volute relative to the
Lin Y, et al. Sci China Tech Sci June (2012) Vol.55 No.6 1697

Figure 1 Diagrams of the four cases with different circumferential ar-
rangements of the volute relative to the asymmetric diffuser.
asymmetric diffuser. If the volutes asymmetry has no im-
pact on the performance of the centrifugal compressor, then
the performances of these cases should be identical. Other-
wise, any performance difference can be expected to repre-
sent the impact of volutes asymmetry on the compressor
performance.
In order to show additional advantages of this experi-
mental method, some other available experimental methods
are outlined for comparison. One practical method (though
not yet seen in the literature) is to use a multi-exit volute, as
shown in Figure 2. Theoretically, a volute with an infinite
number of exits is axisymmetric, and a multi-exit volute is
believed to be more axisymmetric than the conventional
single-exit volute. Therefore, the multi-exit volute is sup-
posed to alleviate the asymmetry of the flow at the outlet of
the diffuser. However, this configuration is too complicated
and will be costly to manufacture. By optimizing the design
of the volute tongue area, Xu et al. [20] reduced the
non-uniformity of static pressure at the impeller exit in-
duced by the volute. Sorokes and Koch [21] installed low
solidity vanes in the original vaneless diffuser and reduced
the impact of the non-axisymmetric static pressure distribu-

Figure 2 Diagram of a four-exit volute.
tion induced by the volute on the impeller flow field. Un-
fortunately, all these methods changed the geometry and
failed to isolate the impact of the volutes asymmetry.
In this work, the proposed methodology was applied to a
high pressure ratio centrifugal compressor. The detailed
results are presented and analyzed in the following sections.
3 Experimental facilities
In order to apply the proposed experimental method, we
designed an asymmetric vaneless diffuser whose width var-
ied in the circumferential direction. The definition of the
diffuser width is shown in Figure 3. The shroud surface of
the designed diffuser has a sinusoidal distribution and the
hub surface of the diffuser is flat. The circumferential
maximal width is set to be nearly the width of the impeller
outlet, while the circumferential average width is identical
to the prototype with the unchanged diffuser. By rotating
the volute circumferentially relative to the diffuser in steps
of 90, we have four vaneless diffusers, which have the
same asymmetric pattern but different phase angles relative
to the volute. Figure 4 shows the circumferential diffuser
width distributions and definition of the circumferential
angle. 0 corresponds to the tongue position. The maximum
diffuser widths for tests A, B, C, and D are located at 0,
90, 180, and 270, respectively. Since the shroud surface
of the diffuser is integrated into the volute in the case of a
turbocharger compressor, it is impossible to rotate the vo-
lute relative to the diffuser. As a result, we manufactured
four sets of volutes with the sinusoidal shroud surface of the
vaneless diffuser.
An experimental rig for testing turbochargers was used to
measure the centrifugal compressor performance. Pressur-
ized air was supplied by a large reciprocating compressor
and heated by a combustion chamber in front of the turbine.
It was then expanded in the turbine to drive the compressor
at a specified test speed. The rotational speed of the turbo-
charger was controlled by two valves in front of the turbine

Figure 3 Diagram of diffuser width.
1698 Lin Y, et al. Sci China Tech Sci June (2012) Vol.55 No.6

Figure 4 Circumferential diffuser width distribution for four cases.
to allow for control of the flow rate in the turbine. The flow
rate in the compressor was controlled by two valves at its
outlet with an sensitivity of 0.001 kg/s. All measured pa-
rameters were collected and analyzed automatically.
The major parameters measured during performance
testing included total/static pressure and temperature at the
inlet/outlet of the compressor, mass flow rate, rotational
speed, ambient pressure, and ambient temperature. The inlet
and outlet test probes were located at sections S1 and S2
respectively, as shown in Figure 5. The distance from S1 to
the compressor inlet section is 160 mm and the distance
from S2 to the compressor outlet section is 450 mm. The
temperature was measured by thermocouple with an error of
less than 1C; pressure was measured by probes with a
relative error within 0.2%; mass flow rate was measured
using a lemniscates flow meter with a relative error within
0.5%; the rotational speed was measured by an electro-
magnetic transducer with a relative error within 0.25%.
Judging surge point is always a difficult task experimen-

Figure 5 Test probes locations.
tally, but it is essential to obtain the centrifugal compressor
map. High frequency pressure transducers or hot wires were
employed to capture the surge initiation [2224]. Periodic
oscillation with clear amplitude is considered as a sign of
surge. This method is reliable for judging the point of surge,
but complex test facilities are required. Another method,
which was used in this work, is to monitor the acoustic
noise during the surge process. A distinct cyclic noise akin
to a sewing machine whistle can be heard at the onset of
unstable operating conditions in the compressor, known as
compressor surge. The operating conditions just before the
onset of sewing machine whistle were determined to be
the surge point on the performance map. This method has a
high reliability, similar to the previously stated method, and
is widely applied.
4 Results and analysis
Figure 6 shows a comparison of the compressor perform-
ance in each of the four cases (A, B, C, and D). The seven
speed lines correspond to corrected rotor speeds of 80, 100,
120, 140, 150, 160, 170 krpm, respectively. The clear dif-
ferences in performances between the four cases demon-
strate the considerable impact of the volutes asymmetry on
the compressor performance. At a rotor speed of 150 krpm,
the stable flow ranges of the four cases are almost identical,
but for both higher and lower rotor speeds, the differences
in stable flow range are evident. The reason for this is
probably that below the rotor speed of 150 krpm, the vane-
less diffuser stalls first, and hence dominates surge mass

Figure 6 Performance comparison of the four cases.
Lin Y, et al. Sci China Tech Sci June (2012) Vol.55 No.6 1699
flow, while at higher rotor speed impeller stall determines
surge flow rate. The large differences in stable flow range
between the four cases at higher rotor speeds indicate the
considerable impact of the volutes asymmetry on the im-
peller. These differences in stable flow range imply that at
high pressure-ratio, the impeller is more sensitive to the
non-axisymmetric flow induced by the volute. Since the
variation in circumferential incidence angle due to the vo-
lutes asymmetry increases with the rotor speed and the stall
incidence decreases with Mach number, the effect of the
volutes asymmetry on stable flow range becomes stronger
at higher rotor speeds [19].
Zheng et al. showed that the circumferential static pres-
sure distribution at the impeller inlet and outlet [11]. The
circumferential position where the minimum pressure ap-
peared at the impeller outlet is approximately 90 in Figure
4. Case B has the largest diffuser width at this circumferen-
tial position, so the circumferential flow in the diffuser de-
creased when increasing the static pressure. This static
pressure rise compensates for the low-pressure region that
appears in the axisymmetric vaneless diffuser. This results
in a more uniform pressure distribution at the impeller out-
let, and hence alleviates the flow variation at the impeller.
Reduction of circumferential flow distortions at the impeller
would benefit the stability of the compressor [25]. As
shown in Figure 6, case B shows a favorable stable flow
range. On the contrary, case D has the smallest diffuser
width at the 90 position in Figure 4, aggravating the pres-
sure distortion, and hence lowering down the stable flow
range. The fact that case A has the largest stable flow range
implies that the lowest pressure probably appears at
circumferential positions of less than 90.
In order to obtain quantitative estimations of the impact
of the volutes asymmetry on the stable flow range, the sta-
ble flow range (SFR) is defined as
choke surge
choke
const
100%,
N
m m
SFR
m
=
| |
=
|
\ .


where
choke
m and
surge
m are the mass flow rates at choke
and surge conditions on the same speed line, respectively.
At the design speed (170 krpm), the relative reduction in
SFR due to volute asymmetry reaches up to 47 percent (by
comparing the SFR of cases A and D).
Figure 7 shows the compressor efficiencies normalized
by a reference value for the four cases of A, B, C, and D at
the design speed (170 krpm). Case B has the highest maxi-
mum efficiency, while case D has the lowest maximum ef-
ficiency; the two differ in maximum efficiency by 4.8 per-
cent.
It is worth pointing out that the above quantitative esti-
mations do not represent the real impact of the volutes
asymmetry on the performance of the researched compres-
sor, which just means the potential impact. A good match-
ing between volute and upstream components may alleviate

Figure 7 Compressor efficiencies of the four cases at design speed.
the impact of the volutes asymmetry therefore favor the
performance of the compressor, while a bad matching may
aggravate this impact and lead to performance deterioration.
There, the matching between volute and upstream compo-
nents is more important for the high pressure ratio turbo-
charger compressor.
5 Conclusions and remarks
The present work proposed a novel experimental method to
evaluate the impact of the volutes asymmetry on compres-
sor performance and applied this method to a high pressure
ratio centrifugal compressor. Some conclusions and impli-
cations can be derived from the experimental results.
1) The experiments prove the considerable impact of the
volutes asymmetry on the compressor performance, espe-
cially the stability and efficiency. The impact of the volutes
asymmetry on the performance correlates with the rotational
speed and therefore with the pressure ratio. In the present
results, the volute constricts the stable flow range by up to
47 percent at the design speed. The maximum efficiency
was shown to decrease by 4.8 percent at design speed. The
results provide evidence to exploit the potential of intrinsic
non-axisymmetric flow induced by asymmetric volute.
2) For the high pressure ratio turbocharger compressor,
matching between volute and upstream components is more
important to alleviate the impact of the volutes asymmetry.
However, the non-axisymmetric flow induced by volute still
exists on off-design conditions even if the matching be-
tween volute and upstream components is good at design
condition. In order to further alleviate the non-axisymmetric
1700 Lin Y, et al. Sci China Tech Sci June (2012) Vol.55 No.6
flow and exploit the potential of intrinsic non-axisymmetric
flow, novel non-axisymmetric flow control methods based
on the characteristics of intrinsic non-axisymmetric flow
structure can be expected although the conventional flow
control method are axisymmetric.
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of
China (Grant No. 50806040).
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