Gas Turbine Engines – Centrifugal-Flow Compressors

in Aircraft Engines

The centrifugal-flow compressor consists of an impeller (rotor), a diffuser (stator), and a compressor manifold. [Figure 1-46] Centrifugal compressors have a high pressure rise per stage that can be around 8:1. Generally centrifugal compressors are limited to two stages due to efficiency concerns. The two main functional elements are the impeller and the diffuser. Although the diffuser is a separate unit and is placed inside and bolted to the manifold, the entire assembly (diffuser and manifold) is often referred to as the diffuser. For clarification during compressor familiarization, the units are treated individually. The impeller is usually made from forged aluminum alloy, heat treated, machined, and smoothed for minimum flow restriction and turbulence.

Figure 1-46. (A) Components of a centrifugal-flow compressor; (B) Air outlet elbow with turning vanes for reducing air pressure losses.

Figure 1-46. (A) Components of a centrifugal-flow compressor; (B) Air outlet elbow with turning vanes for reducing air pressure losses.

In most types, the impeller is fabricated from a single forging. This type impeller is shown in Figure 1-46. The impeller, whose function is to pick up and accelerate the air outwardly to the diffuser, may be either of two types—single entry or double entry. The principal differences between the two types of impellers are size and ducting arrangement. The double-entry type has a smaller diameter, but is usually operated at a higher rotational speed to assure sufficient airflow. The single-entry impeller, shown in Figure 1-47, permits convenient ducting directly to the impeller eye (inducer vanes) as opposed to the more complicated ducting necessary to reach the rear side of the double-entry type. Although slightly more efficient in receiving air, the singleentry impeller must be large in diameter to deliver the same quantity of air as the double-entry type. This, of course, increases the overall diameter of the engine.


Figure 1-47. Single-entry impeller.

Figure 1-47. Single-entry impeller.

Included in the ducting for double-entry compressor engines is the plenum chamber. This chamber is necessary for a double-entry compressor because the air must enter the engine at almost right angles to the engine axis. Therefore, in order to give a positive flow, the air must surround the engine compressor at a positive pressure before entering the compressor. Included in some installations as necessary parts of the plenum chamber are the auxiliary air-intake doors (blow-in doors). These blow-in doors admit air to the engine compartment during ground operation, when air requirements for the engine are in excess of the airflow through the inlet ducts. The doors are held closed by spring action when the engine is not operating. During operation, however, the doors open automatically whenever engine compartment pressure drops below atmospheric pressure. During takeoff and flight, ram air pressure in the engine compartment aids the springs in holding the doors closed.

The diffuser is an annular chamber provided with a number of vanes forming a series of divergent passages into the manifold. The diffuser vanes direct the flow of air from the impeller to the manifold at an angle designed to retain the maximum amount of energy imparted by the impeller. They also deliver the air to the manifold at a velocity and pressure satisfactory for use in the combustion chambers. Refer to Figure 1-46A and note the arrow indicating the path of airflow through the diffuser, then through the manifold.

The compressor manifold shown in Figure 1-46A diverts the flow of air from the diffuser, which is an integral part of the manifold, into the combustion chambers. The manifold has one outlet port for each chamber so that the air is evenly divided. A compressor outlet elbow is bolted to each of the outlet ports. These air outlets are constructed in the form of ducts and are known by a variety of names, such as air outlet ducts, outlet elbows, or combustion chamber inlet ducts. Regardless of the terminology used, these outlet ducts perform a very important part of the diffusion process; that is, they change the radial direction of the airflow to an axial direction, in which the diffusion process is completed after the turn. To help the elbows perform this function in an efficient manner, turning vanes (cascade vanes) are sometimes fitted inside the elbows. These vanes reduce air pressure losses by presenting a smooth, turning surface. [Figure 1-46B]