Backflow effects on mass flow gain factor in a centrifugal pump

Sci Prog. 2021 Apr-Jun;104(2):36850421998865. doi: 10.1177/0036850421998865.


Previous researches has shown that inlet backflow may occur in a centrifugal pump when running at low-flow-rate conditions and have nonnegligible effects on cavitation behaviors (e.g. mass flow gain factor) and cavitation stability (e.g. cavitation surge). To analyze the influences of backflow in impeller inlet, comparative studies of cavitating flows are carried out for two typical centrifugal pumps. A series of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations were carried out for the cavitating flows in two pumps, based on the RANS (Reynolds-Averaged Naiver-Stokes) solver with the turbulence model of k-ω shear stress transport and homogeneous multiphase model. The cavity volume in Pump A (with less reversed flow in impeller inlet) decreases with the decreasing of flow rate, while the cavity volume in Pump B (with obvious inlet backflow) reach the minimum values at δ = 0.1285 and then increase as the flow rate decreases. For Pump A, the mass flow gain factors are negative and the absolute values increase with the decrease of cavitation number for all calculation conditions. For Pump B, the mass flow gain factors are negative for most conditions but positive for some conditions with low flow rate coefficients and low cavitation numbers, reaching the minimum value at condition of σ = 0.151 for most cases. The development of backflow in impeller inlet is found to be the essential reason for the great differences. For Pump B, the strong shearing between backflow and main flow lead to the cavitation in inlet tube. The cavity volume in the impeller decreases while that in the inlet tube increases with the decreasing of flow rate, which make the total cavity volume reaches the minimum value at δ = 0.1285 and then the mass flow gain factor become positive. Through the transient calculations for cavitating flows in two pumps, low-frequency fluctuations of pressure and flow rate are found in Pump B at some off-designed conditions (e.g. δ = 0.107, σ = 0.195). The relations among inlet pressure, inlet flow rate, cavity volume, and backflow are analyzed in detail to understand the periodic evolution of low-frequency fluctuations. Backflow is found to be the main reason which cause the positive value of mass flow gain factor at low-flow-rate conditions. Through the transient simulations of cavitating flow, backflow is considered as an important aspect closely related to the hydraulic stability of cavitating pumping system.

Keywords: Cavitation; computational fluid dynamics; fluid dynamics; fluid engineering; pumps.