This paper presents an experimental investigation on using high strength-to-weight composite materials to reduce the mass of a centrifugal compressor impeller by 600%. By reducing the blades number from 17 to 7 and by doubling their thickness, the compression ratio and efficiency were maintained close to the reference metallic impeller. Using autoclave technology, seven composite blades were manufactured individually and assembled to form the impeller. After manufacturing, small deviations were found at the blade's tip. As these deviations were found to be symmetrical, impeller balancing was successfully performed removing a total of 45 g of mass, followed by an experimental test on a dedicated test bench. Experimental testing identified the resonant frequencies of the composite centrifugal impeller at 13.43 Hz 805 rot/min and at 77 Hz with a 0.1 mm/s amplitude at 4400 rot/min, highlighting feasibility and the advantage of a composite compressor impeller design with application in centrifugal compressors and rotating machine assemblies and sub-assemblies. As there are numerous numerical investigations performed on the strength analysis and on the lay-up orientations mechanical behaviour for polymer composite materials with respect to the design of centrifugal impellers, no experimental evaluations in relevant working conditions have been performed to date. As the paper contains relevant experimental data on the subject, the outcome of the paper may aid the oil and gas or aviation industries.
Keywords: centrifugal compressor; composite impeller; composite impeller balancing; composite materials.