Turbocharger surge has been investigated in a radial impeller-vaneless diffuser free-spool system. Several different aspects are addressed. First, two very different compression systems, one with a large downstream volume and one with the smallest possible downstream volume, are employed to examine stall initiation phenomena as well as the behavior of the compressor characteristics when operating in surge. The measurements show impeller stall at the inducer tips to be a key phenomena in initiating surge. The inducer stall is stationary and asymmetric, due to the presence of the volute, and is most severe near the volute tongue angular position. The compressor characteristic in the large volume system (which gave surge) is observed to be flatter and to lag that in the stabilized small volume system. The difference arises because of the slow development time and differing circumferential extent of the inducer stall present at a given mass flow.

A nonlinear simulation of the system is also presented. The model deviates from previous treatments of unsteady flow in compressor systems in that the assumption of constant rotor speed is relaxed. Including a time lag on the order of the compressor throughflow time, together with proper treatment of speed variations, is shown to dramatically improve agreement with the observed surge behavior.

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