Future jet engines with shorter and thinner intakes present a greater risk of intake separation. This leads to a complex tip-low total pressure distortion pattern of varying circumferential extent. In this paper, an experimental study has been completed to determine the impact of such distortion patterns on the operating range and stalling behaviour of a low-speed fan rig. Unsteady casing static pressure measurements have been made during stall events in 11 circumferential extents of tip-low distortion. The performance has been measured and detailed area traverses have been performed at rotor inlet and outlet in 3 of these cases — clean, axisymmetric tip-low and half-annulus tip-low distortion. Axisymmetric tip-low distortion is found to reduce stall margin by 8%. It does not change the stalling mechanism compared to clean inflow. In both cases, high incidence at the tip combined with growth of the casing boundary layer drive instability. In contrast, half-annulus tip-low distortion is found to reduce stall margin by only 4% through a different mechanism. The distortion causes disturbances in the measured casing pressure signals to grow circumferentially in regions of high incidence. Stall occurs when these disturbances do not decay fully in the undistorted region. As the extent of the distorted sector is increased, the stability margin is found to reduce continuously. However, the maximum disturbance size before stall inception is found to occur at intermediate values of distorted sector extent. This corresponds to distortion patterns that provide sufficient circumferential length of undistorted region for disturbances to decay fully before they return to the distorted sector. It is found that as the extent of the tip-low distortion sector is increased, the circumferential size of the stall cell that develops is reduced. However, its speed is found to remain approximately constant at 50% of the rotor blade speed.

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