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Engineering Science
Engineers, Part C: Journal of Mechanical
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DOI: 10.1177/0954406212454966
online 3 August 2012
published Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part C: Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science
Xinqian Zheng, Lei Jin, Tao Du, Binlin Gan, Fenghu Liu and Huihua Qian
Effect of temperature on the strength of a centrifugal compressor impeller for a turbocharger

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Original Article
Effect of temperature on the strength
of a centrifugal compressor impeller
for a turbocharger
Xinqian Zheng
1
, Lei Jin
1
, Tao Du
2
, Binlin Gan
2
, Fenghu Liu
3
and
Huihua Qian
4
Abstract
High pressure ratio turbocharger technology is used to decrease fuel consumption, reduce emissions and improve
power density of an internal combustion engine. The centrifugal compressor is the turbochargers core component.
The reliability of its impeller becomes critical as the pressure ratio gets higher and the temperature starts playing an
important role. In order to study the effect of the flow temperature on the reliability of a centrifugal compressor
impeller, solidfluid coupling is used to calculate the temperature distribution on the impeller surface. This temperature
distribution is then applied as boundary condition in three-dimensional finite element analysis to analyze impeller stress.
The results show that the percentage of impeller stress caused by thermal load remains approximately constant (about
2%) at different pressure ratios, which does not increase with increasing pressure ratio. Centrifugal load plays an
absolutely critical role in the impeller stress at different pressure ratios. High pressure ratio also leads to an increase
of air temperature, which causes higher material temperature and consequently the lower ultimate tensile strength of
the impeller material. The maximum compressor pressure ratio which the impeller can bear decreases from 4.6 to 4.2
for the researched compressor if the effect of temperature on the ultimate tensile strength was considered. That means
the effect of the temperature on compressor impeller strength and reliability at high pressure ratio should be considered
while it can be ignored at low pressure ratio.
Keywords
Solidfluid coupling, centrifugal compressor, turbocharger, strength, temperature
Date received: 8 March 2012; accepted: 26 June 2012
Introduction
The energy consumption related to environmental
problem has become a focus of public and regulatory
attention. The global temperature increase caused by
CO
2
emissions may lead to an environmental and
social catastrophe.
1
As the main power devices of
most transportation vehicles and engineering machin-
ery in industrialized societies, internal combustion
engines are responsible for 25% of the global energy
consumption and CO
2
emissions. On the premise of
guaranteeing engine performance, high pressure ratio
turbocharger technology can reduce engine displace-
ment to improve engine power density and fuel econ-
omy, while decreasing CO
2
emissions.
24
Meanwhile,
in order to reduce the NO
x
emissions and meet increas-
ingly stringent emission regulation requirements, high
rates of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) are generally
used, for which high pressure ratio turbocharger tech-
nology is required.
57
In addition, at high altitudes, low
air density decreases engine power signicantly. High
pressure ratio turbocharger technology is the core
technology in recovering engine power in such condi-
tions.
8,9
Consequently, high pressure ratio turbochar-
ger technology has been widely studied.
1012
The centrifugal compressor is the core component
of a turbocharger. It is also widely used in small gas
turbines, as well as industrial compressors.
13
In recent
years, research into the reliability of compressor
impeller is increasing for economical and environmen-
tal reasons.
14,15
Valakos et a1.
16
carried out structural
optimization of the back face geometry of a centrifu-
gal impeller, with respect to the minimization of the
stress due to centrifugal load. Osborne et al.
17
1
State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and Energy, Tsinghua
University, Beijing, China
2
Beijing Power Machinery Research Institute, Beijing, China
3
FuYuan Turbochargers Co., Ltd, Weifang, Shandong, China
4
SinoTurbo Power Co., Ltd, Beijing, China
Corresponding author:
Xinqian Zheng, State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and Energy,
Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.
Email: zhengxq@tsinghua.edu.cn
Proc IMechE Part C:
J Mechanical Engineering Science
0(0) 19
! IMechE 2012
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optimized the design of a compressor impeller using a
multi-disciplinary method. A two-step optimization
method was used. Loop 1 combined quasi-3D aero-
dynamic method and blade-alone FEA models, with
reduced blade stress under blade centrifugal loadings.
Loop 2 used a 3D pie-slice nite element analysis
(FEA) model with decreased bore stress goal. As a
result of the research, the cost of the impeller
decreased signicantly after replacing titanium alloy
with aluminium. However, the optimization takes
only the centrifugal load into account, and does not
consider thermal loads.
With the increase of the turbocharger pressure
ratio, much research has been carried out into the
eect of the heat transfer on the turbocharger per-
formance.
1820
However, there is relatively little
research into the eects of the temperature increase
on the reliability of a compressor impeller. As one of
only few examples, Mukherjee et al.
21
investigated the
thermal stress that occurred at the impeller together
with the centrifugal load. In order to obtain the sur-
face temperature of the impeller, a heat transfer coef-
cient derived from empirical correlation was used.
In this article, a soliduid coupling analysis is
used to obtain the surface temperature distribution
of a turbocharger compressor impeller. The surface
temperature distribution is then applied as a bound-
ary condition in a FEA to study the compressor
impeller stress with thermal loads. Finally, the eect
of the temperature on impeller reliability at dierent
pressure ratios is analyzed.
Physical models and calculation methods
Study object
In this article, a turbocharger centrifugal compressor
impeller with six main blades and six splitter blades
was studied. The outlet diameter and width of the
impeller are 122 mm and 3.3 mm, respectively. The
backward angle of the blades is 35

. The material
of this impeller is aluminum LD7 whose properties at
dierent temperatures are shown in Table 1.
Temperature calculation method
As the impeller works on the air, the air temperature
rises, leading in turn to an increase of the impeller
temperature. The temperature distribution on the
impeller surface is obtained by soliduid coupling
calculation. The impeller is a symmetric cycle with
6 main blades and 6 splitter blades. Therefore, 1/6
of the structure was analyzed to reduce the numerical
solution time; that is, the analysis model involves only
one main blade and one splitter blade. The mesh for
soliduid coupling analysis is shown in Figure 1,
which includes uid and solid domains. The solid
domain mesh is also used for the subsequent struc-
tural analysis.
For the numerical calculation in the uid domain,
a CFD code based on a 3D steady compressible nite
volume scheme was used to solve the Reynolds-aver-
aged NavierStokes equations in conservative formu-
lation. The turbulence model is the standard k-epsilon
model. A central scheme was used for spatial discret-
ization while fourth-order RungeKutta scheme for
the temporal discretization. After checking for mesh
independence, the mesh number selection was set to
1,000,000. The boundary conditions of the simulation
are derived from the turbocharger performance test
data. Total temperature and total pressure together
with the velocity direction were imposed as inlet
boundary conditions; static pressure was set as
outlet boundary condition. No-slip and impermeabil-
ity conditions were imposed on the solid walls. A
mixing plane method was applied for ow parameter
transmission calculation. In the circumferential direc-
tion, a periodical boundary condition was imposed.
Conjugate heat transmission analysis technology
was applied in the soliduid coupling calculation of
the impeller temperature. Thus, solid and uid
domains are all included in the simulation and their
temperature distributions are calculated at the same
time. Considering the soliduid coupling, the inter-
faces between the solid domain and the uid domains
are taken as the inner boundary. The heat transfer
coecient is not found using an empirical correlation
but determined by the iterative calculation between
uid and solid domain. Consequently, the tempera-
ture values obtained through soliduid coupling
model will be more reliable than those using an
empirical heat transfer coecient. The heat transfer
between the compressor and the environment is not
considered in this article.
Structural analysis method
FEA was used in the structural analysis of the centri-
fugal compressor impeller, which represents the solid
domain in calculations above.
The equilibrium equations for linear structural
static analysis are
oo
x
ox

ot
xy
oy

ot
xz
oz
F
bx
0 1
Table 1. Properties of LD7 at different temperature: ultimate
tensile strength o
b
, thermal conductivity z, specific heat
capacity C, density , and modulus of elasticity E.
T (K) o
b
(MPa) z (W/m/K) C (J/kg/K) , (kg/m
3
) E (GPa)
293 412 142 2760 72
373 380 146 795 2760 67
433 345 149 837 2760 64
473 313 151 837 2760 61
2 Proc IMechE Part C: J Mechanical Engineering Science 0(0)
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ot
yx
ox

oo
y
oy

ot
yz
oz
F
by
0 2
ot
zx
ox

ot
zy
oy

oo
z
oz
F
bz
0 3
where F
bx
, F
by
and F
bz
are the body forces per unit
volume acting along the directions x, y and z, respect-
ively. o and t are normal stress and shear stress com-
ponents. Subscripts are used to describe their
directions.
The strains induced in the body can be expressed in
terms of the displacements, as shown below
c
x

ou
ox
, ,
xy

ou
oy

ov
ox
4
c
y

ov
oy
, ,
yz

ov
oz

ow
oy
5
c
z

ow
oz
, ,
zx

ow
ox

ou
oz
6
where u, v and w are the displacements along the dir-
ections x, y and z, respectively. c and , are normal
strain and shear strain components. Subscripts are
used to describe their directions.
In the case of linear elasticity of the isotropic 3D
solid with thermal load, the stressstrain relations are
given as
c
x

1
E
o
x
j o
y
o
z

oT T
0
, ,
xy

t
xy
G
7
c
y

1
E
o
y
j o
z
o
x


oT T
0
, ,
yz

t
yz
G
8
c
z

1
E
o
z
j o
x
o
y

oT T
0
, ,
zx

t
zx
G
9
where E is the Youngs modulus, G the shear modu-
lus, and j the Poissons ratio of the material, o a
thermal expansion coecient of the material that is
variable with temperature, T the temperature eld and
T
0
the initial temperature eld.
Static structural analysis was done by solving the
equations above numerically under set boundary con-
ditions and material physical properties. The material
stressstrain status was then obtained.
The temperature distribution on the impeller sur-
face is obtained by soliduid coupling heat transfer
calculation, and then applied to the impeller surface
as boundary condition. Through nite element ther-
mal analysis, the temperature distribution of whole
impeller is obtained as the thermal load of the
Figure 1. The mesh for solidfluid coupling analysis: (a) fluid domain, (b) solid domain.
Zheng et al. 3
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following structural analysis. The centrifugal load is
obtained from a given rotational speed. As in the cal-
culations before, only 1/6 of the periodic structure was
meshed to reduce computational time. The following
boundary conditions and loads were applied for the
structural analysis: (1) centrifugal loads given by rota-
tional speed; (2) those nodes attached to both the
front and reverse side of the impeller are constrained
and the displacements along circumferential and axial
directions are equal to zero. The compressor impeller
nite element mesh was built using 3D solid elements,
containing 30,976 elements.
Simulation result of temperature field
Figure 2 shows the performance map of the turbo-
charger compressor. In order to study the compressor
impeller temperature distribution at dierent pressure
ratios, eight working points under dierent rotating
speeds, and thus dierent pressure ratios, were ana-
lyzed. The normalized mass ow rate is the ratio of
mass ow rate to the maximum mass ow rate
(m,m
max
). The normalized rotational speed is the
ratio of rotational speed to the maximum rotational
speed (n,n
max
). The working points are marked by
dots in Figure 2.
Figure 3 shows the temperature distribution of the
impeller surface obtained from soliduid coupling
analysis for a pressure ratio of 3.4 (84% of nominal
rotating speed). It can be seen that the impeller sur-
face temperature is continuously increasing from inlet
to outlet. At the inlet, the temperature is 339 K; the
outlet temperature is the highest with the value of
389 K. The temperature distributions of the impeller
surface at other working points are similar to that
displayed in Figure 3. Except for the temperature of
the impeller outlet, the temperature of the impeller
core is also important because the highest stress of
100%
95%
90%
84%
74%
63%
53%
42%
32%
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
3.5
4.0
4.5
5.0
0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.1
Normalized mass flow rate
P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

r
a
t
i
o
Figure 2. Performance of the centrifugal compressor by
experiment.
Figure 3. Temperature distribution of the compressor impeller surface when pressure ratio is 3.4.
4 Proc IMechE Part C: J Mechanical Engineering Science 0(0)
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the impeller usually occurs in the core region. Figure 4
shows the impeller core and outlet temperature under
eight working conditions, from which it can be seen
that the compressor impeller temperature varies with
increasing pressure ratio. It can be seen that both the
impeller core and the outlet temperature increase with
pressure ratio. The temperature at outlet region
increases from 318 to 432 K and the temperature in
the core region increases from 313 to 379 K when the
pressure ratio rises from 1.5 to 4.6.
Figure 5 shows the heat ux distribution of on the
impeller surface, representing the heat transfer
between air and impeller per unit area. It can be
seen from Figure 5 that the heat ux on the impeller
surface is not uniform. At the outlet, the air tempera-
ture rises after compression, the air transfers heat to
the impeller and impeller outlet temperature rises.
Through internal heat transfer, the temperature at
the impeller inlet and the impeller core also
rises. Therefore, the compressor inlet temperature is
higher than the air temperature and the compressor
impeller heats up the passing air ow. Thus, taking
the solid compressor impeller as carrier, a portion of
the heat at the impeller outlet is transferred to the air
at compressor impeller inlet, which changes the uid
domain temperature distribution. It can be clearly
seen that the temperature distributions in the uid
and solid domains interact with each other.
The largest temperature dierence between air and
impeller occurs at the compressor outlet and leads to
the greatest heat ux. Figure 6 shows the highest heat
ux at compressor outlet against pressure ratio. It can
be seen that with the increase of pressure ratio, the
heat ux on turbocharger compressor impeller surface
increases rapidly. When the pressure ratio is 4.6, the
maximum heat ux (252.8 kW/m
2
) is 9.9 times that at
the pressure ratio of 1.5 (25.6 kW/m
2
).
Traditional compressor impeller temperature ana-
lysis generally takes no account of heat transfer
between the solid and uid domains. It is acceptable
for low pressure ratio compressors. But at high pres-
sure ratio, the heat transfer between the solid and
300
350
400
450
500
1 2 3 4 5
Pressure ratio
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

o
f


i
m
p
e
l
l
e
r

(
K
)
outlet region
core region
Figure 4. Compressor impeller temperature against pressure
ratio.
Figure 5. Heat flux distribution on the impeller surface (positive value means heat transfers from solid to fluid, vice versa)
when pressure ratio is 3.4.
Zheng et al. 5
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uid domains increases, thus it can no longer be
ignored. A soliduid coupling method is applied to
obtain the compressor impeller temperature distribu-
tion directly.
Effect of temperature on compressor
impeller stress
The compressor wheel works under several loads,
including centrifugal, thermal and aerodynamic
loads. Figure 7 shows the eect of the aerodynamic
load on compressor impeller equivalent stress at dif-
ferent pressure ratios. The pressure distribution on the
impeller surface is also obtained by soliduid cou-
pling calculation, and then applied to the impeller
surface as the aerodynamic load. From Figure 7, it
is obvious that the eect of aerodynamic load on com-
pressor impeller is very small and it changes by less
than 0.25% at dierent pressure ratios. Therefore, the
inuence of aerodynamic load can be ignored when
the eect of thermal load on the strength of the impel-
ler is investigated.
This article focuses on the eect of thermal load on
the strength of the compressor impeller by comparing
results considering only centrifugal load with results
which consider both centrifugal and thermal load at
dierent pressure ratios. The compressor impeller sur-
face temperature is obtained by soliduid coupling
heat transfer calculation and taken as the boundary
condition of the nite element thermal analysis, which
is used to obtain the whole impeller temperature dis-
tribution as thermal load for this FEA structural ana-
lysis. The centrifugal load is obtained from the
rotational speed of the compressor impeller.
Figure 8 shows von Mises equivalent stress distri-
bution in the compressor impeller when the pressure
ratio is 3.4 only considering the centrifugal load.
Figure 9 shows the compressor impeller von Mises
equivalent stress distribution under both centrifugal
and thermal load at the same pressure ratio.
According to Figures 8 and 9, the maximum equiva-
lent stress in the impeller is located at the impeller
core, with values of 286 and 291 MPa, respectively.
Viewing the numerical values and the distribution
there is little dierence. After considering thermal
load, compressor impeller equivalent stress is approxi-
mately 2% higher. The stress caused by centrifugal
load takes up to 98% of the whole stress.
Figure 10 shows the compressor impeller maximum
von Mises equivalent stress against pressure ratio
when considering only centrifugal load and also cen-
trifugal and thermal loads. Figure 10 also provides the
ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of the aluminum alloy
LD7 at dierent temperature and that at 293 K. The
UTS of the material is the material property that is
used to evaluate impeller strength. From Figure 10,
the compressor impeller stress increases with
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5
Pressure ratio
H
e
a
t


f
l
u
x

(
k
W
/
m
2
)
Figure 6. Heat flux at the compressor impeller exit region
against pressure ratio.
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
450
1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5
Pressure ratio
T
h
e

v
o
n

M
i
s
e
s

e
q
u
i
v
a
l
e
n
t

s
t
r
e
s
s

a
t


c
o
r
e

r
e
g
i
o
n

(
M
P
a
)

Stress without aerodynamic load
Stress with aerodynamic load
Figure 7. The von Mises equivalent stress at the core region of the compressor impeller against pressure ratio.
6 Proc IMechE Part C: J Mechanical Engineering Science 0(0)
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increasing pressure ratio regardless of thermal load.
However, the percentage of compressor impeller stress
caused by thermal load does not increase with increas-
ing pressure ratio. Under dierent pressure ratio, it
only takes about 2% of the whole stress caused by
all loads. The stress caused by centrifugal load takes
up to 98% of the whole stress caused by all loads.
Therefore, the centrifugal load plays a dominant
role throughout the considered working conditions.
It can be seen from Figure 4 that the temperature
at the compressor impeller core raises with increasing
pressure ratio. When the pressure ratio is 4.6, the tem-
perature of at the impeller core is 379 K. At 293 K, the
UTS of the aluminum alloy LD7 is 412 MPa. At tem-
perature of 379 K, the UTS is 373 MPa, which is
90.5% of that at 293 K. From Figure 10, if UTS at
temperature of 293 K is used to evaluate compressor
impeller strength the maximum pressure ratio that
Figure 8. The von Mises equivalent stress of the compressor impeller under centrifugal load when pressure ratio is 3.4.
Figure 9. The von Mises equivalent stress of the compressor impeller under centrifugal and thermal loads when pressure ratio is 3.4.
Zheng et al. 7
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compressor impeller can bear will be 4.6. If the UTS at
dierent temperature is used to evaluate the compressor
impeller strength, considering the UTS decrease caused
by high temperature, the maximumpressure ratio which
the impeller can bear will decrease from 4.6 to 4.2. That
is, the temperature rise will lead to a decrease of the
UTS, which severely reduces the maximum pressure
ratio that compressor impeller can bear.
Ahigh pressure ratio turbocharger centrifugal com-
pressor impeller works under severe loads and its safety
margin is low. Therefore, it will be a risky design of the
impeller if nothing but centrifugal load is concerned
during the structural analysis. The eects of the ther-
mal load on the value or distribution of von Mises
equivalent stress is very small, but the temperature
rise leads to deteriorated material properties. That is,
the temperature is an important factor which should be
considered when evaluating the reliability of a com-
pressor impeller with high pressure ratio.
Conclusions and remarks
In this article, a soliduid coupling analysis method
was used to study the eects of the temperature
distribution on the reliability of a turbocharger
centrifugal compressor impeller under dierent pres-
sure ratio conditions (from low to high pressure
ratio). The main conclusions are as follows:
1. When the pressure ratio increases from 1.5 to 4.6,
the compressor impeller outlet temperature
increases from 318 to 432 K. Temperature at the
compressor impeller core increases from 313 to
379 K. With increasing pressure ratio, the inter-
action of aerodynamics and heat transfer between
air and impeller gets stronger. When pressure ratio
is 4.6, the maximum heat ux is 9.9 times of that at
a pressure ratio of 1.5. That is, solid-uid coupling
method to obtain the impeller temperature is
necessary at high pressure ratio.
2. The impeller stress is caused by centrifugal, thermal
and aerodynamic loads. At dierent pressure ratios,
the percentage of impeller stress caused by aero-
dynamic and thermal loads remain approximately
constant on the compressor impeller, at about
0.25% and 2%, respectively. The percentage of
impeller stress caused by thermal and aerodynamic
loads does not increasewithincreasingpressure ratio.
The stress caused by the centrifugal load plays an
absolutely dominant role from low to high pressure
ratio. That is, the eect of aerodynamic and thermal
loads can be ignored even at high pressure ratio.
3. At low pressure ratio, the temperature eect on
impeller strength and reliability can be ignored. At
high pressure ratio, however, the compressor impeller
works under stronger loads, with lower safety factor.
At the same time, the increase of compressor impeller
temperature deteriorates material properties (UTS).
Considering the UTS decreases as the temperature
increases, the maximum pressure ratio which the
compressor can bear decreases signicantly, from
4.6 to4.2. That is, it is necessary toconsider the eects
of the temperature on compressor impeller strength
and reliability at high pressure ratio.
Funding
This research was supported by the National Natural
Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51176087).
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0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
450
1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5
Pressure ratio
T
h
e

v
o
n

M
i
s
e
s

e
q
u
i
v
a
l
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n
t

s
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r
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h
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c
o
r
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r
e
g
i
o
n

a
n
d

U
T
S

(
M
P
a
)



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Figure 10. The von Mises equivalent stress at the core region and UTS against pressure ratio.
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Appendix
Notation
C specific heat capacity (J/kg/K)
E modulus of elasticity (GPa)
F
bx
body forces per unit volume acting
along the directions, x (N)
F
by
body forces per unit volume acting
along the directions, y (N)
F
bz
body forces per unit volume acting
along the directions, z (N)
G shear modulus (GPa)
m mass flow rate (m
3
/s)
n rotational speed (r/min)
T temperature (K)
T
0
initial temperature (K)
u displacement along the direction, x (m)
v displacement along the direction, y (m)
w displacement along the direction, z (m)
o thermal expansion coefficient (K
1
)
, shear strain
c normal strain
z thermal conductivity (W/m/K)
j Poissons ratio
, density (kg/m
3
)
o
b
ultimate tensile strength (MPa)
o normal stress (Pa)
t shear stress (Pa)
Subscripts
x, y, z Cartesian coordinates
max maximum
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