Impeller design is the most significant factor for determining performance of a centrifugal pump. A properly designed impeller optimizes flow while minimizing turbulence and maximizing efficiency.
The impeller of a centrifugal pump can be of three basic types:
- Open impeller. Open impellers have the vanes free on both sides. Open impellers are structurally weak. They are typically used in small-diameter, inexpensive pumps and pumps handling suspended solids.
- Semi-open impeller. The vanes are free on one side and enclosed on the other. The shroud adds mechanical strength. They also offer higher efficiencies than open impellers. They can be used in medium-diameter pumps and with liquids containing small amounts of suspended solids. Because of minimization of recirculation and other losses, it is very important that a small clearance exists between the impeller vanes and the casing.
- Closed impeller. The vanes are located between the two discs, all in a single casting. They are used in large pumps with high efficiencies and low required Net Positive Suction Head. The centrifugal pumps with closed impeller are the most widely used pumps handling clear liquids. They rely on close-clearance wear rings on the impeller and on the pump casing. The closed impeller is a more complicated and expensive design not only because of the impeller, but the additional wear rings are needed.
The impeller blades can be:
- Backward-curved blade design (prefered design due to negative slope of performance curve)
- Radial blade design
- Forward-curved blade design (due to positive slope conditions this design can cause pump surge)
Impellers can be either:
- Single-suction. A single-suction impeller allows liquid to enter the center of the blades from only one direction.
- Double-suction. A double-suction impeller allows liquid to enter the center of the impeller blades from both sides simultaneously. This reduces forces exerted on the shaft.
The output pressure slightly changes according to the design used. The blades may be open or closed. Also the diffuser may be fitted with fixed vanes to help guide the flow toward the exit. The energy transferred to the liquid corresponds to the velocity at the edge of the impeller. The faster the impeller revolves or the bigger the impeller is, the higher will the velocity head be.
In general, centrifugal pumps can be classified based on the manner in which fluid flows through the pump. It is not classification based on the impeller alone, but it is based on the design of pump casing and the impeller. The three types of flow through a centrifugal pump are:
- radial flow
- mixed flow (part radial, part axial)
- axial flow (propeller type)