Mind the gap - tip leakage vortex in axial turbines
The tendency of designing large Kaplan turbines with a continuous increase of output power is bringing to the front the cavitation erosion issue. Due to the flow in the gap between the runner and the discharge ring, axial turbine blades may develop the so called tip leakage vortex (TLV) cavitation with negative consequences. Such vortices may interact strongly with the wake of guide vanes leading to their multiple collapses and rebounds. If the vortex trajectory remains close to the blade tip, these collapses may lead to severe erosion. One is still unable today to predict its occurrence and development in axial turbines with acceptable accuracy. Numerical flow simulations as well as the actual scale-up rules from small to large scales are unreliable. The present work addresses this problematic in a simplified case study representing TLV cavitation to better understand its sensitivity to the gap width. A Naca0009 hydrofoil is used as a generic blade in the test section of EPFL cavitation tunnel. A sliding mounting support allowing an adjustable gap between the blade tip and wall was manufactured. The vortex trajectory is visualized with a high speed camera and appropriate lighting. The three dimensional velocity field induced by the TLV is investigated using stereo particle image velocimetry. We have taken into account the vortex wandering in the image processing to obtain accurate measurements of the vortex properties. The measurements were performed in three planes located downstream of the hydrofoil for different values of the flow velocity, the incidence angle and the gap width. The results clearly reveal a strong influence of the gap width on both trajectory and intensity of the tip leakage vortex.