In this experimental study, we investigate the fundamental behaviour of a low speed contra-rotating fan and describes the reasons leading to the instabilities in the fan at low mass flow rates. A contra-rotating fan is a possible alternative to conventional fans and has potential aerodynamic advantages. This study identifies certain features that are unique to a contra-rotating configuration. Rotor-1 and rotor-2 behaves differently at low mass flow rates. Though rotor-1 is stable up to low mass flow rates, rotor-2 enters into an unstable mode of operation at mass flow rates close to the design mass flow rate. The critical region where the instability arise in rotor-1 is its tip and in rotor-2 is its hub. The instability is also found to change the structure as it propagates along the annulus. It is identified that the presence of rotor-2 downstream of rotor-1 under-loads rotor-1 and thus significantly affects the loading on rotor-1. The instability arises due to the tip-leakage vortex at high frequencies and due to modal waves at low frequencies. The study thus identifies the major regions of the rotors which are the sources of instabilities and also identifies the process of transition to instability in the contra-rotating fan.

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