Experimental response of a rotor supported on Rayleigh step gas bearings



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Texas A&M University


Gas bearings enable successful applications in high speed oil-free microturbomachinery. This thesis presents analysis and experiments of the dynamic performance of a rotor supported on Rayleigh step gas bearings. Comprehensive experiments demonstrate that Rayleigh step hybrid gas bearings exhibit adequate stiffness and damping capability in a narrow range of shaft speeds, up to ~ 20 krpm.
Rotor coastdown responses were performed for two test bearing sets with nominal radial clearance of 25.4 ?m and 38.1 ?m, respectively. A near-frictionless carbon (NFC) coating was applied on the rotor to reduce friction against its bearings at liftoff and touchdown. However, the rotor still experienced dry friction at low shaft speeds (below ~ 4,000 rpm). Experiments show that the supply pressure raises the rotor critical speed and decreases the system damping ratio. The geometry of the Rayleigh steps distributed on the rotor surface generates a time varying pressure field and results in a sizable 4X super synchronous component of bearing transmitted load. The external supply gas pressure affects slightly the onset speed of instability of the rotor-bearing system. The unstable whirl frequencies are nearly fixed at the system natural frequency (~ 120 Hz). Analysis with a finite element model predicts the stiffness and damping force coefficients for the bearing accounting for a purely hydrodynamic operation condition. Predictions show the synchronous stiffness and damping coefficients decrease with shaft speed. Predicted threshold speeds of instability are lower, ~ 50% or less than the measurement due to the analytical model limitations assuming a grooved stator. The predicted synchronous responses to imbalance correlate well with the measurements, however. The Rayleigh step gas bearing shows similar characteristics to the flexure pivot tilting pad bearing (FPTPB) tested in 2003. However, the test Rayleigh step gas bearings exhibit a much reduced stable operating speed range, below 20 krpm. The maximum speed achieved is much lower to that determined with an identical rotor supported on FPTPBs, i.e. rotor dynamically stable up to 100 krpm. The FPTPB is more reliable in high speed oil-free applications due to its excellent stability characteristics.