A control system for preventing cavitation of centrifugal pumps

The research article 'A control system for preventing cavitation of centrifugal pumps' has been published in Elsevier journal Energy Procedia (Volume 148, August 2018, Pages 242-249).


Cavitation is a well-known phenomenon that may occur, among other turbo-machines, in centrifugal pumps and can result in severe damage of both the pump and the whole hydraulic system. There are situations in which, in principle, the cavitation could be avoided by detecting the condition of incipient cavitation, and changing slightly the working point of the whole system in order to move away from that condition.

In the present paper two simple closed-loop control strategies are implemented, acting on the pump’s rotational speed and fed by the measurements of a set of inertial sensors. In particular, the research is focused on a centrifugal pump normally employed in hydraulic systems. The pump operates in a dedicated test rig, where cavitation can be induced by acting on a reservoir’s pressure. Three accelerometers are installed in the pump body along three orthogonal axes. An extensive set of experiments has been carried out at different flow rates and a number of signals’ features both in the time domain and in the frequency domain have been considered as indicators of incipient cavitation. The amount of energy of the signal captured by the accelerometer in the component orthogonal to the flow direction, in the band from 10 to 12.8 kHz, demonstrated to be effective in detecting the incipient cavitation, by selecting a proper (condition-dependent) threshold. Therefore, two simple controllers have been designed: the first regulates the speed of the pump, to recover from cavitation, bringing the indicator back to the nominal value, while the second allows to reduce the pump’s rotational speed when the cavitation detector indicates the incipient cavitation and restoring the nominal speed when possible. The latter approach is rather general, because the threshold-based detector can be substituted by any detector providing binary output. Experimental results are reported that demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach.

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