The pulsating flow conditions which a turbocharger turbine is exposed cause important deviations of the turbine aerodynamic performance when compared to steady flow conditions. Indeed, the secondary flows developing in the turbine are determined by the inflow aerodynamic conditions, which largely vary during the pulse cycle.
In this paper, a high-resolved Large Eddy Simulation is performed to investigate and characterize the flow field evolution in a turbocharger radial turbine over the pulse cycle. At first, the model is validated against experimental results obtained in gas-stand flow conditions. Then, the instantaneous flow field at the rotor mid-span section is compared to the one given by the equivalent cycle-averaged steady flow conditions. The results highlight five distinct flow features. At low mass flow rates, when the relative inflow angle assumes large negative values, the flow separates at the blade pressure side, causing a secondary flow consisting in two counter-rotating vortices characterized by a diameter comparable to the blade passage. As the mass flow rate increases, the first vortex persists at the blade tip while the second one moves closer to the blade trailing edge. This corresponds to the second characteristic flow field. With increasing relative inflow angle, for the third characteristic flow feature, only the recirculation at the blade leading edge is displayed and its size gradually reduces. For the fourth characteristic flow feature, at moderate negative values of the relative inflow angle, the flow field is well aligned with the blade profile and free of secondary flows. Then, as the relative inflow angle gradually grows towards large positive values, the flow separates on the blade suction side causing the mixing of the flow with the stream flowing on the pressure side of the previous blade.