Computational Fluid Dynamics for Centrifugal Pumps

Pumps are important for many common systems which deal with water, such as heating circulating flows, consumer or industrial water supply, fountains, and fire protection systems.

Pumps are classified into two major categories: Rotodynamic pumps and positive displacement pumps (piston pumps). Rotodynamic pumps can be further classified as axial pumps, centrifugal (radial) pumps, or mixed pumps.

Centrifugal pumps are the devices which impart energy to the fluid (liquid) by means of rotating impeller vanes, and the fluid exits radially from the pump impeller. Such pumps are simple, efficient, reliable, relatively inexpensive, and easily meet the pumping system requirements for filtration. This is a great pump choice for moving liquids from one place to another using pressure.

Types of Rotodynamic Pumps
Figure 1. Types of Rotodynamic Pumps

Centrifugal Pump Design

A centrifugal pump is a very common component in turbomachines, but as with any component, it still needs continual improvement in the design methodology, from conceptual level to the final product development including testing at different levels. The challenge is to design a pump with improved efficiency while minimizing the possibility of cavitation.

Need of Numerical Simulation

Years ago, engineers performed prototype testing at each level of design to check the performance (which was very costly and time consuming). Now with advancements in the computation technology and resources, it is comparatively easier to design high efficiency pumps within a short duration of time. These simulations can be done with a computer, so, the number of physical prototypes required is greatly reduced. The main advantage of numerical simulation is that it allows engineers to virtually test the CAD model early in the design process, and provides flexibility for engineers to iterate the design until getting the required performance.

Computational Fluid Dynamics for Centrifugal Pumps

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) replaces the huge number of testing requirement. This not only shortens the design cycle time but also significantly reduces development cost.

In a CFD model, the region of interest, a pump impeller flow-path for example, is subdivided into a large number of cells which form the grid or mesh. The PDEs (partial differential equations) can be rewritten as algebraic equations that relate the velocity, pressure, temperature, etc. in a cell to those in all of the cell’s immediate neighbors. The resulting set of equations can then be solved iteratively, yielding a complete description of the flow throughout the domain.

To accomplish CFD simulations, there are several software programs available, but user must select a very well validated software that can provide and easy user interface, automatic mesh generation and flexibility to modify the geometry to perform optimization without needing to move to some other software platform.

In the current trend, automatic mesh generation tools like AxCFD™ are employed in the AxSTREAM® software platforms which reduces the turbomachines meshing complications and generate good quality mesh in considerably short timeframe which can capture the accurate flow features needed. Figure 2 shows the discretized impeller and pressure contour after CFD analysis.

Discretized Impeller and Pressure Contour After CFD Analysis
Figure 2. Discretized Impeller and Pressure Contour After CFD Analysis

AxCFD™, in AxSTREAM® platform, provides user an opportunity to perform CFD analysis by applying standard methods of full three-dimensional CFD, axisymmetric CFD (meridional), and blade-to-blade analysis. User can even perform optimization of the blade profiles and other geometrical parameters within the AxSTREAM® platform and perform CFD simulation without altering any CFD settings.

One thought on “Computational Fluid Dynamics for Centrifugal Pumps

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