It is well known that compressor surge imposes a significant limit on the flow range of a turbocharged internal combustion engine. The centrifugal compressor is commonly placed upstream of the inlet manifold and hence, it is exposed to the intermittent flow regime of the inlet valves. Surge phenomena has been well studied over the past decades, there still remains limited information with regards to the unsteady impact caused by the inlet valves. This study presents an experimental evaluation of such a situation. Engine representative pulses are created by a downstream system comprising a large volume, two rotating valves, a throttle valve and the corresponding pipe network. Different pulsation levels are characterized by means of their frequency and the corresponding amplitude at the compressor inlet.

The stability limit of the system under study is evaluated with reference to the parameter B proposed by Greitzer [7–9]. B describes the dynamics of the compression system in terms of volume, area, equivalent length and compressor tip speed as well as the Helmholtz frequency of the system. For a given compressor, as B goes beyond a critical value, the system will exhibit surge as the result of the flow instability progression.

The reduced frequency analysis shows that the scroll-diffuser operates in an unsteady regime, while the impeller is nearly quasi-steady. In the vicinity of the surge point, under a pulsating flow, the instantaneous operation of the compressor showed significant excursions into the unstable side of the surge line. Furthermore, it has been found that the presence of a volume in the system has the greatest effect on the surge margin of the compressor under the unsteady conditions.

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