Causes of Cavitation
The liquid enters hydraulic turbines at high pressure; this pressure is a combination of static and dynamic components. Dynamic pressure of the liquid is by the virtue of flow velocity and the other component, static pressure, is the actual fluid pressure which the fluid applies and which is acted upon it. Static pressure governs the process of vapor bubble formation or boiling. Thus, Cavitation can occur near the fast moving blades of the turbine where local dynamic head increases due to action of blades which causes static pressure to fall. Cavitation also occurs at the exit of the turbine as the liquid has lost major part of its pressure heads and any increase in dynamic head will lead to fall in static pressure causing Cavitation.
Detrimental Effects of Cavitation
The formation of vapor bubbles in cavitation is not a major problem in itself but the collapse of these bubbles generates pressure waves, which can be of very high frequencies, causing damage to the machinery. The bubbles collapsing near the machine surface are more damaging and cause erosion on the surfaces called as cavitation erosion. The collapses of smaller bubbles create higher frequency waves than larger bubbles. So, smaller bubbles are more detrimental to the hydraulic machines.
Smaller bubbles may be more detrimental to the hydraulic machine body but they do not cause any significant reduction in the efficiency of the machine. With further decrease in static pressure more number of bubbles is formed and their size also increases. These bubbles coalesce with each other to form larger bubbles and eventually pockets of vapor. This disturbs the liquid flow and causes flow separation which reduces the machine performance sharply. Cavitation is an important factor to be considered while designing Hydraulic Turbines.
To avoid cavitation while operating Hydraulic Turbines parameters should be set such that at any point of flow static pressure may not fall below the vapor pressure of the liquid. These parameters to control cavitation are pressure head, flow rate and exit pressure of the liquid. The control parameters for cavitation free operation of hydraulic turbines can be obtained by conducting tests on model of the turbine under consideration. The parameters beyond which cavitation starts and turbine efficiency falls significantly should be avoided while operation of hydraulic turbines.
Flow separation at the exit of the turbine in the draft tube causes vibrations which can damage the draft tube. To dampen the vibration and stabilize the flow air is injected in the draft tube. To totally avoid the flow separation and cavitation in the draft tube it is submerged below the level of the water in tailrace.