Exhaust diffusers significantly enhance the available power output and efficiency of gas and steam turbines by allowing for lower turbine exit pressures. The residual dynamic pressure of the turbine outflow is converted into static pressure, which is referred to as pressure recovery. Since total pressure losses as well as construction costs increase drastically with diffuser length, it is more than favourable to design shorter diffusers with rather steep opening angles. However, those designs are more susceptible to boundary layer separation.
In this paper, the stabilising properties of tip leakage vortices generated in the last rotor row and their effect on the boundary layer characteristics are examined. Based on analytical considerations, for the first time a correlation between the pressure recovery of the diffuser and integral rotor parameters of the last stage, namely the loading coefficient, flow coefficient and reduced frequency, is established. Both, experimental data and scale resolving simulations, carried out with the SST-SAS method, show excellent agreement with the correlation.
Blade tip vortex strength predominantly depends on the amount of work performed in the rotor, which in turn is described by the non-dimensional loading coefficient. The flow coefficient influences mainly the orientation of the vortex, which affects the interaction between vortex and boundary layer. The induced velocity field accelerates the boundary layer, essentially reducing the thickness of the separated layer or even locally preventing separation.