A single stage cryogenic liquid turbine expander is developed as a replacement for traditional Joule-Thomson valves used in the large-scale internal compression air-separation unit for the purpose of energy saving. Similar to the conventional hydraulic turbine, detrimental swirling and cavitation flow is also encountered at turbine expander impeller exit and its successive diffuser tube, but due to significant thermodynamic effect of cryogenic fluid flow, it is much more complicated than the conventional hydraulic turbine.

In the present study, cavitating flow mechanism of the turbine expander is investigated first with a combination of the homogenous multiphase mixture model and the Rayleigh-Plesset model, where the former treats liquid and gas as a continuum mixture and the latter depicts the bubble dynamics. Then sensitivity study is conducted for the impeller fairing cone geometry on suppression of cavitating flow. The following are demonstrated: with a use of the fairing cone, flow behavior near and downstream the impeller exit is significantly improved, where the low static pressure region is reduced and the local temperature rise decreases, subsequently the cavitating flow is effectively suppressed. The cavitating flow is sensitive to a tuning of the fairing cone geometry, and an optimal design of the cone geometry is essential.

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