An increased understanding of how inlet flow distortion affects transonic fans enables improved fan design and performance prediction. Inlet distortion refers to non-uniformities in the incoming flow properties. Complex inlet ducts in high performance aircraft result in distorted flow at the fan inlet. In this thesis, two studies were performed using Unsteady Reynolds-Averaged Navier Stokes (URANS) simulations. The first study focused on understanding how the transition abruptness between the clean and distorted sector in the inlet Pt profile as well as the circumferential extent of the distorted sector affect distortion transfer and generation through a transonic fan. Simulations on two main distortion sector sizes were carried out. For each sector size, variants with decreasing levels of transition abruptness were applied to the inlet of fan. Simulations were conducted at various operating points, ranging from choke to near-stall. Fourier-based distortion descriptors were used to quantify levels of distortion transfer and generation at various axial locations. It is shown that variations in rotor incidence occur as a result of the applied Pt distortion at the inlet. A less abrupt transition diminishes the local extrema in rotor incidence, which in turn reduces the amount of distortion transfer and generation through the rotor. The near-stall condition is affected most of all operating points considered, with a 23.4% average reduction in the amount of distortion transfer at any span. The size the inlet distorted sector affects the amount of distortion transfer and generation, particularly at the near-stall operating point. This is shown to be due to the dynamic response of the fan. The second study compared the mechanisms of stall inception for cases of both clean and distorted inlet flow. In each instance, the mechanism of stall inception is shown to be interactions between the detached bow shock and the tip clearance vortex. These interactions result in the formation of two vortices within the blade passage. The location and strength of these vortices affect the LE spillage in the adjacent blade rows. Stall inception occurs when the bow shock has moved far enough upstream to allow the resultant vortices from shock/tip clearance vortex interaction to pass in front of the leading edge. When inlet distortion is present, mass redistribution upstream of the fan results in variations in rotor incidence. Within the high incidence region, the bow shock is detached 3.9%-8.1% chord more than the clean inlet case, making LE spillage more severe. The rotating stall cell grows out of the stalled passages present at the near-stall operating point and ultimately extends 180° circumferentially and 18.7% span radially. Understanding the effects of distortion on the mechanisms of stall inception will allow appropriate steps to be taken to extend the stable operating range of modern commercial and high performance fans.



College and Department

Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





inlet distortion, URANS, distortion transfer, distortion generation, stall inception



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Engineering Commons