Tip leakage vortex has an important influence on the performance of semi-open centrifugal pumps. Simulations based on the three-dimensional Reynolds-Averaged Navier–Stokes were conducted to study the structural characteristics of tip leakage vortex and its effects on the internal flow field, and the Shear Stress Transport k-ω turbulence model was used to simulate the whole flow passage of centrifugal pumps with tip clearances of 0 mm and 1 mm. Then, the tip leakage vortex was analyzed using the relative vorticity transport equation. The numerical data and experimental results agreed well. The leakage vortex formed in the tip clearance led to 18.7% and 14.4% decrease in head and efficiency under design condition, respectively, and the bigger the flow rate, the fast the performance decreased. Tip leakage vortex formed at the leading edge of the blade moved along the suction surface. Whereas the tip leakage vortex formed near the middle of the blade extended to the pressure surface of the adjacent blade. This phenomenon deteriorated the flow field and induced passage vortex, thereby reducing the static pressure and blade load and changing the static pressure distribution law. The formation and development of leakage vortex could be attributed to the relative vortex stretching the term. The Coriolis force term could reflect the change of vorticity caused by leakage flow, and the viscous diffusion term served as the vorticity source.
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