An Introduction to Cavitation in Hydro Turbomachinery

A major concern for pump system engineers over the last fifty years has been caviation. Cavitation is defined as the formation of vapor bubbles in low pressure regions within a flow. Generally, this phenomenon occurs when the pressure value within the flow-path of the pump becomes lower than the vapor pressure; which is defined as the pressure exerted by a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium conditions with its liquid at a specified temperature. Normally, this happens when the pressure at the suction of the pump is insufficient, in formulas NPSHa ≤ NPSHr, where the net positive suction head is the difference between the fluid pressure and the vapor pressure at the pump suction and the “a” and “r” stand respectively for the values available in the system and required by the system to avoid cavitation in the pump.

The manifestation of cavitation causes the generation of gas bubbles in zones where the pressure gets below the vapor pressure corresponding to that fluid temperature. When the liquid moves towards the outlet of the pump, the pressure rises and the bubbles implode creating major shock waves and causing vibration and mechanical damage by eroding the metal surfaces. This also causes performance degradation, noise and vibration, which can lead to complete failure. Often a first sign of a problem is vibration, which also has an impact on pump components such as the shaft, bearings and seals.

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Enhanced Design Capabilities Using CFD

The use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) in turbomachinery design is getting more and more popular given the increased computational resources. For the design process, however, there is no need for extensive CFD capabilities as the effort is put on minimizing engineering time while obtaining a design which is about 90% optimized. Here we are presenting two cases where CFD is used to derive significant information for pump design.

First, the influence of the blade shape on the parameters of the single blade hydrodynamic pump was studied by Knížat et al [1]. The investigation of the pump properties was carried out experimentally with a support of CFD methods. The accuracy of applied steady-state calculations was satisfactory for the process of design of a single blade pump, because of the good agreement between measured and calculated power curves.

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Mixed Flow Pumps

As with any turbomachinery, pump design requires a lot of effort on finding the right blade profile for the specified application. As there is no right or wrong in the process, engineers have to make some general assumptions as a starting point. Generally, we can say that the focus of this task is to minimize losses. It is obvious that the selected blade shape will affect several important hydrodynamic parameters of the pump and especially the position of optimal flow rate and the shape of the overall pump performance curves. In addition to axial and radial pump design in recent years, we also have seen the development of mixed-flow pumps. A mixed flow pump is a centrifugal pump with a mixed flow impeller (also called diagonal impeller), and their application range covers the transition gap between radial flow pumps and axial flow pumps.

Let’s consider a dimensionless coefficient called “specific speed” in order to be able to compare different pumps with various configurations and features. The “specific speed” is obtained as the theoretical rotational speed at which a geometrically-similar impeller would run if it were of such a size as to produce 1 m of head at a 1l/s flow rate. In formulas:
formulawhere ns is the specific speed, n the rotational speed, Q is the volume flow rate, H is total head and g is gravity acceleration.

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Importance and Modelling of Internal Combustion Engine Cooling Systems

In an internal combustion engine, combustion of air and fuel takes place inside the engine cylinder and hot gases are generated with temperature of gases around 2300-2500°C which may result in not only burning of oil film between the moving parts, but also in seizing or welding of the stationery and moving components. This temperature must be reduced such that the engine works at top efficienc,  promoting high volumetric efficiency and ensuring better combustion without compromising the thermal efficiency due to overcooling. Most importantly, the engine needs to function both in the sense of mechanical operation and reliability. In short, cooling is a matter of equalization of internal temperature to prevent local overheating as well as to remove sufficient heat energy to maintain a practical overall working temperature.

It is also important to note that about 20-25% of the total heat generated is used for producing brake power (useful work). The cooling system should be designed to remove 30-35% of total heat and the remaining heat is lost in friction and carried away by exhaust gases.

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Gaining Turbomachinery Insight Using a Fluid Structure Interaction Approach

Existing research studies for the corresponding flow-induced vibration analysis of centrifugal pumps are mainly carried out without considering the interaction between fluid and structure. The ignorance of fluid structure interaction (FSI) means that the energy transfer between fluid and structure is neglected. To some extent, the accuracy and reliability of unsteady flow and rotor deflection analysis should be affected by this interaction mechanism.

In recent years, more and more applications of FSI are found in the reliability research of turbomachinery. Most of them are about turbines, and a few of them address pumps. Kato [1] predicted the noise from a multi-stage centrifugal pump using one-way coupling method. This practical approach treats the fluid physics and the solid physics consecutively.

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A Reasonable Approach to Pump Design While Avoiding Resonance

For the majority of pump application, the growing use of variable speed operation has increased the likelihood of resonance conditions that can cause excessive vibration levels, which can negatively impact pump performance and reliability. Mechanical resonance is the tendency of a mechanical system to absorb more energy when the frequency of its oscillations (external excitation source) matches the system’s natural frequency of vibration more than it does at other frequencies. To avoid vibration issues, potential complications must be properly addressed and mitigated during the design phase.

Some of the factors that may cause excitation of a natural frequency include rotational balance, impeller exit pressure pulsations, and gear couplings misalignment. The effect of the resonance can be determined by evaluating the pumping machinery construction. All aspects of the installation such as the discharge head, mounting structure, piping and drive system will affect lateral, torsional and structural frequencies of the pumping system. It is advised that the analysis be conducted during the initial design phase to reduce the probability of reliability problems and the time and expense associated.

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Exotic Turbomachinery – Viscous Disc Pumps

Turbomachinery can be divided into two main groups. Group one consists of machines that perform work on the fluid, requiring energy and increasing its pressure, such as compressors, pumps, and fans. Group two consists of those that extracts energy from the fluid flowing through it – for example, wind, hydro, steam, and gas turbines.

Pumps specifically are devices whose purpose is to move fluid at a constant density, increasing its kinetic energy and its pressure while consuming energy in the process. We are quite used to seeing centrifugal and axial pumps, as they are the most common configurations.  However, more exotic designs have been tested and developed throughout the history of fluid machinery.

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Working with Geothermal Heat Pumps

A geothermal heat pump utilizes earth’s thermal energy as a way to manipulate temperature. This is seemingly attractive toward HVAC utilization due to the relatively high efficiency as well as economic benefit. Temperature fluctuations below ground are relatively low as earth absorbs solar energy all year round and insulates the heat underground. Taking advantage of this event, geothermal energy heat pump application for residential and commercial building uses the “underground” as a heat source/sink.

geothermal heat pumps

How does geothermal heat pump work?

A heat pump system mainly consists of a heat-pump unit, a pipeline loop functioning as a heat exchanger for a desired area (it can be horizontal, vertical or installed to an aquatic medium), and a duct – to deliver the controlled temperature flow to the consumer.

Fluid is pumped through an installed pipeline loop which transfers heat based on the season. During the hotter season (summer), heat will be absorbed from the air in the building, transferred into the ground and then cooler air will be circulated to the designated area. The contrary happens during the winter. In colder months, heat will be transferred into the fluid from the ground and collected heat will be distributed.

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Discussion – Alien Signal or Radio Noise: Leveraging Turbomachinery

The Internet practically exploded early yesterday morning with talk of an extraterrestrial discovery after a signal was detected by a Russian telescope. The star in question, HD 164595 located a vast 95 light years away, sent out a strong radio spike that was picked up and sparked a boom of excitement. According to an article published by National Geographic, however, this signal may not be what it was first interpreted as.

Astronomers have pointed their radio telescopes towards the stars for over half a century, hoping to catch a glimmer of life beyond this planet. Short of a futuristic rocket ship, these telescopes seem to be the best bet for catching a peak of something out of this world. That is a main causStarse as to why this discovery is so tantalizing to both scientists and the rest of us earthlings. However, after further investigation, neither the Allen Telescope Array, commanded by the SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute, nor the Green Bank Telescope, used by the Breakthrough Listen project, turned up additional signals or observations.

Another issue that has risen according to this article is that the signal did not repeat and could have been caused by something else. A source on Earth, such as a faulty power supply, military transmission, or arcing electrical fence for example. Another possible explanation could be that gravity from another object in space amplified a weaker signal. That being said, it would appear that HD 164595 is similar in many ways to our sun. It is composed of the same ingredients, is approximately the same age and has at least one planet in its orbit. This would suggest that theoretically, it would be plausible for life to exist within this system.

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Turbo pump design parameters for Liquid Propulsion

turbo3aLiquid propellant rocket is known as the most common traditional rocket design. Although the first design was launched back in 1926, liquid propellant rocket remains a popular technology which space exploration companies and institutions study for further improvement.

The implementation of this particular technology is based on a simple idea: fuel and oxidizer are fed through a combustion chamber where both liquids will met and burned to produce launching energy. In order to inject propellant to combustion chamber, a turbo-pump is used to create required pressure . The turbo-pump design and operating parameters contribute to the optimization of both turbo-pump and engine system performance. The pump needs to be designed to avoid cavitation while operates pushing the liquid to combustion chamber.

There are three different cycles which are often used in liquid propellant rocket: the staged combustion, expander and gas generator cycle. Configuration of the turbo-pump strongly relies on the cycle and engine requirements –thus the best design must be selected from options available for the particular cycle’s optimal parameters. For example for staged combustion cycle, where turbine flows is in series with thrust chamber, the application allows high power turbo-pumps; which means high expansion ratio nozzles can be used at low altitude for better performance. Whereas, for implementation of gas-generator cycle, turbine flows are linked in parallel to thrust chamber, consequently, gas generator cycle turbine does not have to work the injection process from exhaust to combustion chamber, thus simplified the design and allows lighter weight to be implemented.

Some parameters are interdependent when it comes to designing a turbo-pump, i.e: turbo-pump cycle efficiency, pump specific needs, pump efficiencies, NPSH, overall performance, etc. Often in practice, pump characteristics will determine the maximum shaft speed at which a unit can operate. Once it’s determined turbine type, arrangements, and else can be selected. Another thing that must be taken into consideration while designing a turbo-pump is how it affect the overall payloads.

Schematic of a pump-fed liquid rocket
Schematic of a pump-fed liquid rocket

Turbo-pump design affect payload in different ways:

  1. Component weight
  2. Inlet suction pressure. As suction pressure goes up, the tank and pressurization system weight increased and reduce the payload.
  3. Gas flowrate, since increase in flowrate decrease the allowable-stage burnout weight, which would decrease payload weight.

All those has to be taken into consideration while trying to select an optimal design of turbo-pump, since it crucially affects overall performance of the engine.

Want to learn more how to design a turbo-pump? Check out AxSTREAM as your design, analysis and optimization tool!


Turbopumps for Liquid Rocket Engines
Design of Liquid-Propellant Rocket Engines
Principal of Operation – Liquid-propellant rocket
Staged combustion cycle
Gas-generator cycle