A modified Reynolds equation for bump type gas foil thrust bearing was established with consideration of the gas rarefaction coefficient. Under rarefied gas lubrication, the Knudsen number which was affected by the film thickness and pressure was introduced to the Reynolds equation. The coupled modified Reynolds and lubricating film thickness equations were solved using Newton-Raphson Iterative Method and Finite Difference Method. By calculating the load capacity for increasing rotor speeds, the lift-off speed under certain static load was obtained. Parametric studies for a series of structural parameters and assembled clearances were carried out for bearing optimization design. The results indicate that with gas rarefaction effect, the axial load capacity would be decreased, and the lift-off speed would be improved. The rarefied gas has a more remarkable impact under a lower rotating speed and a smaller foil compliance coefficient. When the assembled clearance of the thrust bearing rotor system lies in a small value, the lift-off speed increases dramatically as the assembled clearance decreases further. Therefore, the axial clearance should be controlled carefully in assembling the foil thrust bearing. It’s worth noting that the linear uniform bump foil stiffness model is not exact for large foil compliance ∼0.5, especially for lift-off speed analysis, due to ignoring the interaction between bumps and bending stiffness of the foil.

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