This paper reports an experimental investigation on centrifugal compressor surge. The compression system consists of a four-stage blower with vaned diffusers and a large plenum discharging into the atmosphere through a throttle valve. Measurements of unsteady pressure and flow rate in the plant, and of instantaneous velocity in the diffusers of the first and fourth compressor stage are performed during deep surge, at several valve settings and three different rotation speeds. Additional tests have been carried out on a different system configuration, i.e., without plenum, in order to obtain the steady-state compressor characteristics and to collect reference data on stall in surge-free conditions. In this configuration, a fully developed rotating stall was detected in the compressor diffusers, while during surge it affects only a limited part of the surge cycle.
The goal of the present experimental work was to get a deeper insight into unstable operating conditions of multi-stage centrifugal compressors and to validate a theoretical model of the system instability to be used for the design of dynamic control systems.