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Experimental Investigations of Active Air Bearings

[+] Author Affiliations
Stefano Morosi

Lloyd’s Register ODS, Hellerup, Denmark

Ilmar F. Santos

Technical University of Denmark, Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark

Paper No. GT2012-68766, pp. 901-910; 10 pages
  • ASME Turbo Expo 2012: Turbine Technical Conference and Exposition
  • Volume 7: Structures and Dynamics, Parts A and B
  • Copenhagen, Denmark, June 11–15, 2012
  • Conference Sponsors: International Gas Turbine Institute
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4473-1
  • Copyright © 2012 by ASME


Along with traditional oil lubrication, increasing demand for high-speed applications has renewed attention to gas bearings technology. Traditional aerostatic and aerodynamic gas lubrication has been widely used in a variety of applications, ranging from high-speed spindles to micro and meso-scale turbo-machinery. The present paper deals with experimental rotordynamic testing of a flexible rotor supported by hybrid aerostatic-aerodynamic gas journal bearing equipped with an electronic radial air injection system. From a rotordynamic point of view there are two phenomena that limit the widespread of traditional gas lubrication: 1) Low damping makes operation across critical speed dangerous, as even low level of unbalance can generate large vibration responses. This is especially problematic for gas bearing applications, which often operate in the supercritical region. Moreover, 2) An upper bound to supercritical operation is determined by the appearance of subsynchronous whirl instability. Due to the sudden increase in amplitude with respect to speed, this most often corresponds to the maximal attainable rotational speed of the system. Postponing the onset speed of instability poses therefore one of the greatest challenges in a high-speed gas bearing design. A great deal of research is devoted to attack such issues, where most propose passive designs such as compliant foil bearings, tilting pad and flexure pivot gas bearings. These solutions proved to be effective in improving static and dynamic properties of the bearings, however issues related to the manufacturing and accuracy of predictions has so far limited their applications. Another drawback is that passive bearings offer a low degree of flexibility, meaning that an accurate optimization is necessary for each application. The developed prototype active bearing offers several promising performance enhancements. Synchronous vibrations can be effectively addressed ensuring safe operation across the critical speeds; whirling instability is suppressed; intervening on the software, rather than the hardware can modify the response of the system. Implementing active lubrication adds however a considerable number of parameters and variables. The performance of a good control system lays most importantly on a good choice of control gains, which in general are different depending on the goal of the controller. Optimum tuning of the control loop is addressed experimentally, showing dependency on the supply pressure and, less prominently, the rotational velocity.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME



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