Flow visualization for investigating stator losses in a multistage axial compressor

  • Natalie R. Smith
  • Nicole L. Key
Research Article


The methodology and implementation of a powder-paint-based flow visualization technique along with the illuminated flow physics are presented in detail for application in a three-stage axial compressor. While flow visualization often accompanies detailed studies, the turbomachinery literature lacks a comprehensive study which both utilizes flow visualization to interrupt the flow field and explains the intricacies of execution. Lessons learned for obtaining high-quality images of surface flow patterns are discussed in this study. Fluorescent paint is used to provide clear, high-contrast pictures of the recirculation regions on shrouded vane rows. An edge-finding image processing procedure is implemented to provide a quantitative measure of vane-to-vane variability in flow separation, which is approximately 7 % of the suction surface length for Stator 1. Results include images of vane suction side corner separations from all three stages at three loading conditions. Additionally, streakline patterns obtained experimentally are compared with those calculated from computational models. Flow physics associated with vane clocking and increased rotor tip clearance and their implications to stator loss are also investigated with this flow visualization technique. With increased rotor tip clearance, the vane surface flow patterns show a shift to larger separations and more radial flow at the tip. Finally, the effects of instrumentation on the flow field are highlighted.


Flow Visualization Boundary Layer Separation Total Pressure Loss High Loading Condition Trail Edge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Aerodynamic interface plane


Computational fluid dynamics


Clocking configuration




Inlet guide vane


Leading edge




Tip clearance


Trailing edge



This material is based upon work supported in part by NASA under the ROA-2010 NRA of the Subsonic Fixed Wing project. The authors are grateful to David Monk for his assistance in providing computational results for comparison, as well as Prof. Michael Plesniak for his helpful suggestions on the manuscript. The authors would also like to thank Rolls-Royce for the permission to publish this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Aeronautics and AstronauticsPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.School of Mechanical EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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