Theoretical analysis and experimental tests of tilting pad journal bearings with shoes made of polymer material and low-boiling liquid lubrication

Selecting the appropriate bearing system for the rotor requires a good knowledge of the available solutions and the operating conditions of the machine. For newly designed machinery operating in adverse conditions, selecting bearings that ensure correct and long-lasting operation can be extremely challenging. Difficulties increase when the machine’s operating parameters are beyond the technical capabilities of available technical solutions. This article presents the course of the design process and results of numerical and experimental research of a prototype microturbine that uses an innovative rotor-bearing system. Due to the adverse operating conditions, new tilting pad journal bearings were designed, in which the sliding surfaces of the tilting pads were made of polymeric material and a low-viscosity medium in liquid form was used as the lubricating medium. The basic bearing parameters were selected and pre-checked by numerical calculations. The oil-free turbomachinery design thus developed was subjected to experimental testing under near-real conditions. The results of these tests confirmed that the developed bearings performed very well, ensuring stable operation of the high-speed rotor of the microturbine over a wide speed range. Despite the unfavourable lubrication conditions, no signs of bearing wear were observed. The results obtained indicate a new, promising direction for the development of bearing systems for turbomachinery, in which, with a suitable design of the bearings, a low-boiling working medium in liquid form can be used as a lubricating medium.

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