Exhaust diffusers downstream of turbines are used to transform the kinetic energy of the flow into static pressure. The static pressure at the turbine outlet is thus decreased by the diffuser, which in turn increases the technical work as well as the efficiency of the turbine significantly. Consequently, diffuser designs aim to achieve high pressure recovery at a wide range of operating points.

Current diffuser design is based on conservative design charts, developed for laminar, uniform, axial flow. However, several previous investigations have shown that the aerodynamic loading and the pressure recovery of diffusers can be increased significantly if the turbine outflow is taken into consideration. Although it is known that the turbine outflow can reduce boundary layer separations in the diffuser, less information is available regarding the physical mechanisms that are responsible for the stabilization of the diffuser flow.

An analysis using the Lumley invariance charts shows that high pressure recovery is only achieved for those operating points in which the near-shroud turbulence structure is axi-symmetric with a major radial turbulent transport component. This turbulent transport originates mainly from the wake and the tip vortices of the upstream rotor. These structures energize the boundary layer and thus suppress separation. A logarithmic function is shown that correlates empirically the pressure recovery vs. the relevant Reynolds stresses. The present results suggest that an improved prediction of diffuser performance requires modeling approaches that account for the anisotropy of turbulence.

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