Transonic centrifugal compressors are used in turbochargers and turboshaft engines because of their small dimensions, relatively high efficiency and wide operating range. The flow field of the transonic centrifugal compressor impeller is highly three dimensional, and is complicated by shock waves, tip leakage vortices, secondary flows and the interactions among them. In order to improve the performance, it is indispensable to understand these complicated flow phenomena in the impeller. Although experimental and numerical research on transonic impeller flow has been reported, thus providing important flow physics, some undetected flow phenomena remain. The authors of the present report carried out detailed Navier-Stokes computations of a transonic impeller flow measured by Laser Doppler Velocimetry (LDV) in previous work. The highly complicated vortical flow structure and the mechanism of loss generation were revealed by a visual data mining technique, namely vortex identification based on the critical point theory and limiting streamline mapping by means of line integral convolution. As a result, it was found that the tip leakage vortices have a significant impact on the flow field and vortex breakdowns that increase the blockage of the flow passage, and that these were caused by shock wave interaction.

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