Metal Mesh Foil Bearings: Prediction and Measurement for Static and Dynamic Performance Characteristics
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Gas bearings in oil-free micro-turbomachinery for process gas applications and for power generation (< 400 kW) must offer adequate load capacity and thermal stability, reliable rotordynamic performance at high speeds and temperatures, low power losses and minimal maintenance costs. The metal mesh foil bearing (MMFB) is a promising foil bearing technology offering inexpensive manufacturing cost, large inherent material energy dissipation mechanism, and custom-tailored stiffness and damping properties. This dissertation presents predictions and measurements of the dynamic forced performance of various high speed and high temperature MMFBs. MMFB forced performance depends mainly on its elastic support structure, consisting of arcuate metal mesh pads and a smooth top foil. The analysis models the top foil as a 2D finite element (FE) shell supported uniformly by a metal mesh under-layer. The solution of the structural FE model coupled with a gas film model, governed by the Reynolds equation, delivers the pressure distribution over the top foil and thus the load reaction. A perturbation analysis further renders the dynamic stiffness and damping coefficients for the bearing. The static and dynamic performance predictions are validated against limited published experimental data. A one-to-one comparison of the static and dynamic forced performance characteristics of a MMFB against a Generation I bump foil bearing (BFB) of similar size, with a slenderness ratio L/D=1.04, showcases the comparative performance of MMFB against a commercially available gas foil bearing design. The measurements of rotor lift-off speed and drag friction at start-up and airborne conditions are conducted for rotor speeds up to 70 krpm and under identical specific loads (W/LD =0.06 to 0.26 bar). The dynamic force coefficients of the bearings are estimated, in a ‘floating bearing’ type test rig, while floating atop a journal spinning to speeds as high as 50 krpm and with controlled static loads (22 N) applied in the vertical direction. The parameter identification is conducted in the frequency range of 200-400 Hz first, and then up to 600 Hz using higher load capacity shakers. A finite element rotordynamic program (XLTRC2) models a hollow rotor and two MMFBs supporting it and predict the synchronous rotor response for known imbalances. The predictions agree well with the ambient temperature rotor response measurements. Extensive rotor response measurements and rotor and bearing temperature measurements, with a coil heater warming up to 200 ºC and placed inside the hollow rotor, reveal the importance of adequate thermal management. The database of high speed high temperature performance measurements and the development of a predictive tool will aid in the design and deployment of MMFBs in commercial high-speed turbomachinery. The work presented in the dissertation is a cornerstone for future analytical developments and further testing of practical MMFBs.
Bearing parameter identification
Gas foil bearing
Metal mesh foil bearing
Chirathadam, Thomas (2012). Metal Mesh Foil Bearings: Prediction and Measurement for Static and Dynamic Performance Characteristics. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from