Gas bearings enable microturbomachinery (MTM) with a large power to weight ratio, low part count and nearly frictionless motion, thus resulting in systems operating over extended maintenance intervals and with improved fuel efficiency. Envisioned oil-free vehicle transportation systems implementing gas bearings range from small size gas turbines, to unmanned aerial vehicles, to turbochargers (TC), and more to come. In these vehicles, base or support transient displacements transmit forces exciting the rotor-bearing system; hence, the need to characterize system integrity under stringent operating conditions. This paper reports experiments demonstrating the ability of a hybrid gas bearing-rotor system to withstand maneuver actions that suddenly remove the ground support. The test rig consists of a rigid motor-rotor, supported on tilting pad hybrid gas bearings supplied with pressurized air. The rotor is housed in a thick steel casing that is attached to a rigid base plate. The whole test rig, hangs from a crane; two steel cables connect to one side of the base and a nylon webbing attaches to the other side of the base. The other end of the webbing ties to a release mechanism, which when released, frees one side of the rig base. Suddenly, the whole test rig rotates and displaces downwards while the tensions in the taut cables rapidly increase and pull the test rig as it swings back and forth. The crane support enables two release maneuvers; one turns the rig ∼90°, and the other flips it 180°, both events occurring while the rotor spins at 70 krpm (surface speed 105 m/s). The measured rotor displacements relative to the casing demonstrate a momentary increase in motion amplitude, up to ∼1.15 mm since the bearings also displace, along with a maximum casing deceleration of ∼7 g when the cables stop the rig fall. The measurements show the rotor response is free of sub synchronous whirl frequencies that could evidence a rotor dynamic instability. Very low frequency motions denote the swing frequency of the hanging rig and jerk motions from the crane lifting and bouncing when the rig is at its lowest vertical position. In one instance, power to the motor unexpectedly interrupted and the rotor underwent an unplanned shaft speed coastdown. In spite of the large displacements recorded, the rotor survived both events. It continues to operate to this day. The experiments demonstrate that the hybrid gas bearing system could withstand large amplitude rotor excursions. The measurements provide a novel method for testing gas bearings, as the induced excitations are multidirectional, while the test rig encounters a short period of free falling, followed by a quick deceleration with large forces. A simple kinetics model of the test rig drop produces peak decelerations similar in magnitude to those measured.

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