Compact axial compression systems are of interest to the domestic appliance industry. The associated low Reynolds number leads to high losses compared to large-scale compressors due to a transitional flow field with large regions of separation. This paper investigates how Reynolds number variations affect the three-dimensional and unsteady flow field in a compact compressor both pre-stall and in stall. An experimental study has been conducted using a scaled-up singlestage axial compressor across a Reynolds number range of 104 to 105. Steady and unsteady casing static pressure measurements, along with rotor upstream and downstream unsteady velocity measurements, have been used to observe the rotor flow field. As the Reynolds number is reduced below a critical value, 60,000 in the case of the compressor studied, the pressure rise coefficient of the compressor decreases. The exact value of the critical Reynolds number is expected to vary with the compressor geometry. This fall off in performance corresponds to an increase in the compressor rotor secondary flows. Prior to stall, a broadband hump at around 50% of the blade passing frequency is present in the near-field casing static pressure spectra. At Reynolds numbers below the critical value, multiple equally spaced peaks also appear around the peak of the broadband hump. The spacing of these peaks has been found to be exactly equal to the measured stall cell speed once rotating stall is established. When operating in stall, the stall cell is found to increase in size and slow down as Reynolds number decreases. The measured spectra and observed flow structures show that disturbances exist prior to stall at frequencies consistent with the frequencies within stall. The size and shape of the stall cells that form are related to the extent of the three-dimensional flow field present prior to stall. Below a critical value, all of these flow features are highly sensitive to Reynolds number.

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