A CFD and experimental study on cavitation in positive displacement pump: benefits and drawbacks of the "full" cavitation model

Aldo Iannetti, Matthew Stickland, William Dempster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
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To fill the lack of literature in the numerical study of Positive Displacement (PD) pumps in cavitating condition, a comprehensive and transient Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model of a PD pump, simulating the cavitation arising during the suction stroke, was created. The “full” cavitation model was utilised to study its capability on PD pumps cavitation. A set of three plunger speeds were simulated. Using the highest plunger speed an assessment was made of the effect of 1.5, 3, 4.5 and 15 ppm of air mass fraction on pump performance and cavitation. An experimental test rig, replicating the CFD model, was designed and built in order to validate the numerical model and find its weaknesses. CFD modelled, in a consistent way, the fluid dynamics phenomena related to cavitation (chamber pressure approaching the vapour pressure, the vaporization/condensation and the pressure spike occurrence at the end of the suction stroke marking the end of cavitation). On the other hand the CFD pressure trends calculated appeared stretched along the time axis with respect to the experimental data and this highlighted issues in the multiphase and cavitation models: the vaporization/condensation rate calculated by CFD did not follow the real dynamics correctly because the non-condensable gas expansion was overestimated. This was seen when comparing the CFD/experiments where the simulated pressure drop gradient, at the beginning of the suction stroke and the pressure peaks as the valve closed, exhibited a delay in their occurrence. The simulation results were sensitive to the dissolved air mass fraction as the delay depended on the amount of air dissolved in the water. Although the influence of the air mass fraction was considered consistent, the 3 ppm CFD case was the closest to the experiment results whereas the analyst expected the 15 ppm case to be more accurate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-71
Number of pages15
JournalEngineering Applications of Computational Fluid Mechanics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2015


  • positive displacement pumps
  • computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
  • cavitation model
  • air mass fraction


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