This paper investigates the surface boundary layer and wake development of a compressor blade at a range of low Reynolds number from 45000 to 120000. Experiments in a miniature linear compressor cascade facility have been performed with detailed surface pressure measurements and flow visualization to track variations in the separation bubble size. These have been combined with high resolution pneumatic pressure and hot wire probe traverses in the downstream wake. High fidelity DNS simulations have been completed on the same compressor blade section across the same range of operating conditions.
The results show that large laminar separation bubbles exist on both blade surfaces. As Reynolds number increases, these separation bubbles shorten in length and reduce in thickness. Correspondingly, the downstream wake narrows, although the peak wake loss coefficient remains approximately constant. As the Reynolds number is increased from 45000 to 120000 the bubble length on the suction side reduced from 48% to 28% chord and on the pressure side reduced from 35% to 20% chord, while the loss coefficient reduced from 9% to 5%. The flow features are examined further within the high-fidelity computations, which reveal the dependence of the wake turbulence on the laminar separation bubbles. The separation bubbles are found to generate turbulent kinetic energy, which convects downstream to form the outer part of wake. As Re increases, a shorter bubble produces less turbulence in the outer part of the boundary layer leading to a narrower wake. However, the trailing edge separation is largely independent of Reynolds number, leading to the constant peak loss coefficient observed. The overall loss is shown to vary linearly with the total turbulence production, and this depends on the size of the separation bubbles.
Overall, this research provides new insight into the connection between the blade surface flow field and the wake characteristics at low Reynolds number. The findings suggest that changes that minimize the extent of the blade separation bubbles could provide significant improvements to both the steady and unsteady properties of the wake.