Published June 27, 2018

CONVERGE for Compressors: Proven Tools, New Application

Julian Toumey

Senior Research Engineer

Computational fluid dynamics tools such as CONVERGE CFD offer the ability to analyze and optimize compressors without the difficulty and expense (both time and money) of generating and testing physical prototypes.

With CONVERGE, several core technologies make your compressor simulation workflow easier, faster, and more accurate.

AMR Strategy

A staple of the robust feature set in CONVERGE is Adaptive Mesh Refinement (AMR). This feature refines and coarsens the mesh on the fly in response to criteria you specify before starting the simulation. AMR helps maintain resolution in the tight gaps between the moving parts in a compressor. In this way, you can trust CONVERGE to automatically capture relevant flow features.

For compressor simulations, AMR is particularly applicable for resolving flow structures around valves. As there are tight clearances in these small gaps, CONVERGE increases mesh resolution automatically in response to large gradients in velocity, temperature, and other quantities of interest.

Additionally, you can modify the sub-grid scale (SGS) parameter for fine-grain control of the AMR algorithm sensitivity. As shown in the video below, AMR allows you to accurately resolve the jets of fluid traveling through the valve in a reciprocating compressor.

A grid convergence study further demonstrates the advantages of AMR. In this study, we successively refine the grid until quantities of interest reach a converged value (in this example, and as shown in Figures 1 and 2 below, for discharge valve lift and cylinder pressure). One way to perform a grid convergence study is to reduce the size of the base grid (and thus increase the cell count) for successive runs. A better option is to modify the AMR embedding scale and CONVERGE will create finer grids in the vicinity of high gradients, reaching a converged solution faster and with fewer total cells. Table 1 below compares cell count and wall clock time for the base grid and AMR grid refinement studies shown in Figures 1 and 2. Both the finest base grid and the finest AMR level result in a converged solution, but the simulation with AMR takes less time and uses fewer total cells than the simulation with the finest base grid.

Figures 1 and 2: Discharge valve lift and cylinder pressure compared between refined base grid and increased AMR embed scale
Cell count Wall clock time (hrs)
Base grid 1 285,614 0.69
Base grid 2 1,431,153 6.76
Base grid 3 7,577,619 15.80
No AMR 285,600 0.78
AMR level 2 670,359 2.16
AMR level 3 2,138,322 9.55
Table 1: Cell count and wall clock time for base grid and AMR convergence study

Reed Valve Deformation (FSI)

To further increase the accuracy of compressor calculations, CONVERGE includes fluid-structure interaction (FSI) modeling. This capability allows you to model the interactions between the bulk flow and reed valves (e.g., in reciprocating compressors). This way, you can accurately resolve the physical behavior within the compressor machinery to predict failure points.

The reciprocating compressor shown in the video above employs the 1D clamped beam model in CONVERGE to predict the fluid-structure interaction. Notice how the valve deforms realistically in response to the flow through the valve.

Custom Fluid Properties

In many cases, the working fluid within compressor machinery is far from an ideal gas. In CONVERGE, you can select from several different equation of state models to accurately represent the physical properties of your working fluid. Beyond the ideal gas law, CONVERGE includes cubic models such as Redlich-Kwong and Peng-Robinson to suit your application.

Also, you can directly supply custom fluid properties for the working fluid. Instead of linking CONVERGE with a third-party properties library, you can provide tabular data files that contain the fluid properties. These custom properties include viscosity, conductivity, compressibility, and more as a function of temperature.

For many applications, such as with air as the working fluid, the ideal gas law is an appropriate choice for the equation of state (as shown in Figures 3 – 6 below).

Figures 3 to 6: Examples in which the ideal gas law works well for air

Figures 7 – 10 below compare various fluid properties of supercritical CO2 calculated via several different methods. In these examples, the tabular fluid properties match very closely with NIST data. The Peng-Robinson equation of state model provides the next-best match.

Figures 7 to 10: Comparisons of various EOS and tabular data to NIST data

CONVERGE offers several technologies that address the difficulties of compressor CFD while making your workflow easier and more accurate. Want to learn more about integrating CONVERGE into into your simulation workflow? Get in touch with us here.