The paper describes an experimental and analytical study on the vaneless diffuser downstream of a high flow coefficient, high inlet relative Mach number centrifugal impeller. The diffuser flowfield exhibited a unique behavior in which the low momentum zone typically found along the shroud side of a centrifugal compressor diffuser suddenly shifted to the hub side of the diffuser just prior to the onset of diffuser rotating stall. The phenomenon was observed in the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analyses conducted as well as in the experimental data obtained during stage validation testing. A review of the analytical and test results suggested that the phenomenon was at least partially attributable to the level of diffusion in the vaneless diffuser. Modifications made to reduce the diffusion rate were shown by CFD analysis to move the onset of the unusual shift of low momentum flow to a much lower flow rate. The modifications also increased the efficiency of the overall stage by 1.2%.

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