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An Assessment of Gas Foil Bearing Scalability and the Potential Benefits to Civilian Turbofan Engines

[+] Author Affiliations
Robert J. Bruckner

NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH

Paper No. GT2010-22118, pp. 29-35; 7 pages
  • ASME Turbo Expo 2010: Power for Land, Sea, and Air
  • Volume 1: Aircraft Engine; Ceramics; Coal, Biomass and Alternative Fuels; Education; Electric Power; Manufacturing Materials and Metallurgy
  • Glasgow, UK, June 14–18, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: International Gas Turbine Institute
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4396-3 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3872-3


Over the past several years the term oil-free turbomachinery has been used to describe a rotor support system for high speed turbomachinery that does not require oil for lubrication, damping, or cooling. The foundation technology for oil-free turbomachinery is the compliant foil bearing. This technology can replace the conventional rolling element bearings found in current engines. Two major benefits are realized with this technology. The primary benefit is the elimination of the oil lubrication system, accessory gearbox, tower shaft, and one turbine frame. These components account for 8–13% of the turbofan engine weight. The second benefit that compliant foil bearings offer to turbofan engines is the capability to operate at higher rotational speeds and shaft diameters. While traditional rolling element bearings have diminished life, reliability, and load capacity with increasing speeds, the foil bearing has a load capacity proportional to speed. The traditional applications for foil bearings have been in small, lightweight machines. However, recent advancements in the design and manufacturing of foil bearings have increased their potential size. An analysis, grounded in experimentally proven operation, is performed to assess the scalability of the modern foil bearing. This analysis coupled to the requirements of civilian turbofan engines. The application of the foil bearing to larger, high bypass ratio engines nominally at the 120 kN (∼25000 pound) thrust class has been examined. The application of this advanced technology to this system was found to reduce mission fuel burn by 3.05%.

Topics: Engines , Bearings , Turbofans



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