Measurements of Drag Torque and Lift Off Speed and Identification of Stiffness and Damping in a Metal Mesh Foil Bearing
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Metal mesh foil bearings (MMFBs) are a promising low cost gas bearing technology for support of high speed oil-free microturbomachinery. Elimination of complex oil lubrication and sealing system by installing MMFBs in oil free rotating machinery offer distinctive advantages such as reduced system overall weight, enhanced reliability at high rotational speeds and extreme temperatures, and extended maintenance intervals compared to conventional turbo machines. MMFBs for oil-free turbomachinery must demonstrate adequate load capacity, reliable rotordynamic performance, and low frictional losses in a high temperature environment. The thesis presents the measurements of MMFB break-away torque, rotor lift off and touchdown speeds, temperature at increasing static load conditions, and identified stiffness and equivalent viscous damping coefficients. The experiments, conducted in a test rig driven by an automotive turbocharger turbine, demonstrate the airborne operation (hydrodynamic gas film) of the floating test MMFB with little frictional loses at increasing loads. The measured drag torque peaks when the rotor starts and stops, and drops significantly once the bearing is airborne. The estimated rotor speed for lift-off increases linearly with increasing applied loads. During continuous operation, the MMFB temperature measured at one end of the back surface of the top foil increases both with rotor speed and static load. Nonetheless, the temperature rise is only nominal ensuring reliable bearing performance. Application of a sacrificial layer of solid lubricant on the top foil surface aids to reduce the rotor break-away torque. The measurements give confidence on this simple bearing technology for ready application into oil-free turbomachinery. Impact loads delivered (with a soft tip) to the test bearing, while resting on the (stationary) drive shaft, evidence a system with large damping and a structural stiffness that increases with frequency (max. 200 Hz). The system equivalent viscous damping ratio decreases from ~ 0.7 to 0.2 as the frequency increases. In general, the viscous damping in a metal mesh structure is of structural type and inversely proportional to the frequency and amplitude of bearing motion relative to the shaft. Impact load tests, conducted while the shaft rotates at 50 krpm, show that the bearing direct stiffness is lower (~25% at 200 Hz) than the bearing structural stiffness identified from impact load tests without shaft rotation. However, the identified equivalent viscous damping coefficients from tests with and without shaft rotation are nearly identical. The orbits of bearing motion relative to the rotating shaft show subsynchronous motion amplitudes and also backward synchronous whirl. The subsynchronous vibration amplitudes are locked at a frequency, nearly identical to a rotor natural frequency. A backward synchronous whirl occurs while the rotor speed is between any two natural frequencies, arising due to bearing stiffness asymmetry.
SubjectMetal mesh foil bearing
Impact load test
Chirathadam, Thomas A. (2009). Measurements of Drag Torque and Lift Off Speed and Identification of Stiffness and Damping in a Metal Mesh Foil Bearing. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from