Inducer performance is investigated for a variety of inducer geometries operating at multiple flow conditions using computational fluid dynamics. Inducers are used as a first stage in turbopumps to minimize cavitation and allow the pump to operate at lower inlet head conditions. The formation of inlet flow recirculation or backflow in the inducer occurs at low flow conditions and can lead to instabilities and cavitation-induced head breakdown. Backflow formation is often attributed to tip leakage flow. The performance of an inducer with and without tip clearance is examined. Removing the tip clearance eliminates tip leakage flow; however, backflow is still observed. Analysis suggests that blade inlet diffusion, not tip leakage flow, is the fundamental mechanism leading to the formation of backflow. Performance improvements in turbopump systems pumping cold water have been obtained through implementation of a recirculation channel called a stability control device (SCD). However, many inducers actually pump cryogenic fluids, such as liquid hydrogen. To determine the real world effects of SCD implementation, inducer performance at on and off design flow coefficients with and without an SCD were modeled with liquid hydrogen as the working fluid. Relevant thermodynamic effects present in liquid hydrogen at cryogenic temperatures are considered. The results reveal that the SCD yields marginal changes in the head coefficient. However, a stabilizing effect occurs at all considered flow coefficients, where a reduction in backflow occurs over much of the pump operational range. This occurs due to the SCD maintaining consistent, low incidence angles at the inducer leading edge.The final consideration of this work is the acceleration of an inducer from rest to the operating rotational rate. Rapid acceleration of rocket engine turbopumps during start-up imparts significant transient effects to the resulting flow field, causing pump performance to vary widely when compared to quasi-steady operation. A method to simulate turbopump start-up using CFD is developed and presented. The defined outlet pressure is modified based on the difference between simulation inlet pressure and target inlet pressure of a previous simulation. This process is repeated until simulation inlet pressure is essentially constant during start-up. Using this novel simulation method, the performance of a centrifugal turbopump during start-up is simulated. Analysis suggests this simulation method provides a reasonable prediction of cavitation formation and inducer performance.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type



Cavitation, Backflow, Start-up, Inducer, CFD, Suction Performance, Cryogenic, Thermal Suppression



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Engineering Commons