Tip clearance flow is not only the source of undesirable noise but also a potential indicator for critical operating conditions with rotating stall or surge. It can induce blade vibration, which would cause premature blade failure when the vibration is strong enough. The paper presents experimental studies on the effects of tip clearance on the stall inception process in a low-speed high-load single stage fan with different tip clearance. From the point of view of flow range, it has been proved by computations that there is an optimal gap value, and an explanation is given according to different stall mechanisms of large and small tip clearance. However, the experiment of no tip clearance is not easy to achieve. In this experiment, a wearable soft wall casing was used to achieve “zero clearance”, and an explicit conclusion was obtained. The pressure rise and efficiency are improved at small tip clearance. Instantaneous Casing Pressure Field Measurement was carried out: instantaneous casing pressure fields were measured by 9 high response pressure transducers mounted on the casing wall. At the near stall point with large tip clearance, a narrow band increase of the amplitudes in the frequency spectrum at roughly half of the blade passing frequency can be observed according to the spectrum of static pressure at points on the endwall near the leading-edge and above the rotor. This phenomenon was explained from two aspects: tip clearance flow structure and pressure signal spectrum.

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