In centrifugal compressor design, the volute plays a key role in defining the overall efficiency and operating range of the stage. The flow at the impeller outlet is indeed characterized by a high kinetic energy content, which is first converted to potential energy in the diffuser downstream. The compressed gas is then collected by the volute at the cylindrical outlet section of the diffuser and directed to the intake piping, possibly with a further pressure recovery to enhance the stage performance. Due to the high flow speed at the volute inlet, the capability of ensuring the lowest amount of total pressure loss is pivotal to prevent a detriment of the machine efficiency. Moreover, the flow conditions change when the volute operates far from its design point: at mass flow rates lower than the design one, the flow becomes diffusive, while at higher mass flow rates the fluid is accelerated, thus leading to different loss-generation mechanisms. These phenomena are particularly relevant in turbocharger applications, where the compressor needs to cover a wide functioning range; moreover, in these applications the definition of the volute shape is often driven also by space limitations imposed by the vehicle layout, leading to a variety of volute types.
The present paper reports an analysis on the sources of thermodynamic irreversibilities occurring inside different volutes applied to a centrifugal compressor for turbocharging applications. Three demonstrative geometrical configurations are analyzed by means of 3D numerical simulations using common boundary conditions to assess the overall volute performance and the different loss mechanisms, which are evaluated in terms of the local entropy generation rate. The modification of the loss mechanisms in off-design conditions is also accounted for by investigating different mass flow rates.
It is finally shown that the use of the entropy generation rate for the assessment of the irreversibilities is helpful to understand and localize the sources of loss in relation to the various flow structures.