Controlling the area expansion of a backwards centrifugal fan blade passage using the principles of a diffuser and computational fluid dynamics
Michalson, Adam Jeffrey
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Centrifugal Fans are widespread in today's modern built environment. While a few variations of these fans exist, backward centrifugal fans are an efficient economical option capable of producing the pressure and airflow required for many modern building systems. Even though fans have become necessary piece of building engineering to facilitate occupant health and comfort, fan design almost exclusively relies on approximations to equations that have not changed since the 1950s and can consume, on average, 15% of a building's electrical consumption. Additionally, the approximations made support the ease and low cost of manufacturability. The traditional centrifugal fan design is made from stamped metal parts creating a fan blade sandwich with the blades held between an inlet shroud and a backplate. This rectangular blade passage is where the fluid flows through and picks up tangential acceleration. However, since the 1950s, nearly all advancements in fan design have been through incremental changes that are made by individual companies, and these resulting designs and performance data remain proprietary. This research revisits the foundations of centrifugal fan design with more modern tools and utilizes the concept of the diffuser to strictly control the expansion of the blade passage to improve centrifugal fan efficiency. Computational fluid dynamics was used to evaluate the performance of the new design against a traditionally manufactured fan. Combining the diffuser concept with an elliptical profile for the blade passage better controls the uniformity of the velocity field and pressure gradients through the passageway, while also reducing turbulence. Simulations of the new design against the traditional approach to fan design show an increase of nearly 10% in total efficiency.