Modeling and Experimental Investigation of Micro-hydrostatic Gas Thrust Bearings for Micro-turbomachines

[+] Author and Article Information
C. J. Teo, Z. S. Spakovszky

Gas Turbine Laboratory, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics,  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139

A decreasing axial gap increases the electrostatic attraction force such that the stiffness is negative.

The pressure supply to the thrust-bearing supply plenum is held at a constant value, whereas the thrust-bearing exhaust is nominally at atmospheric pressure.

Most of the research reported in the literature focuses on the dynamic stability of a single thrust bearing operating in isolation.

J. Turbomach 128(4), 597-605 (Feb 01, 2005) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2219760 History: Received October 01, 2004; Revised February 01, 2005

One major challenge for the successful operation of high-power-density micro-devices lies in the stable operation of the bearings supporting the high-speed rotating turbomachinery. Previous modeling efforts by Piekos (2000, “Numerical Simulation of Gas-Lubricated Journal Bearings for Microfabricated Machines,” Ph.D. thesis, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT), Liu (2005, “Hydrostatic Gas Journal Bearings for Micro-Turbo Machinery,” ASME J. Vib. Acoust., 127, pp. 157–164), and Spakovszky and Liu (2005, “Scaling Laws for Ultra-Short Hydrostatic Gas Journal Bearings,” ASME J. Vib. Acoust.127, pp. 254–261) have focused on the operation and stability of journal bearings. Thrust bearings play a vital role in providing axial support and stiffness, and there is a need to improve the understanding of their dynamic behavior. In this work, a rigorous theory is presented to analyze the effects of compressibility in micro-flows (characterized by low Reynolds numbers and high Mach numbers) through hydrostatic thrust bearings for application to micro-turbomachines. The analytical model, which combines a one-dimensional compressible flow model with finite-element analysis, serves as a useful tool for establishing operating protocols and assessing the stability characteristics of hydrostatic thrust bearings. The model is capable of predicting key steady-state performance indicators, such as bearing mass flow, axial stiffness, and natural frequency as a function of the hydrostatic supply pressure and thrust-bearing geometry. The model has been applied to investigate the static stability of hydrostatic thrust bearings in micro-turbine generators, where the electrostatic attraction between the stator and rotor gives rise to a negative axial stiffness contribution and may lead to device failure. Thrust-bearing operating protocols have been established for a micro-turbopump, where the bearings also serve as an annular seal preventing the leakage of pressurized liquid from the pump to the gaseous flow in the turbine. The dual role of the annular pad poses challenges in the operation of both the device and the thrust bearing. The operating protocols provide essential information on the required thrust-bearing supply pressures and axial gaps required to prevent the leakage of water into the thrust bearings. Good agreement is observed between the model predictions and experimental results. A dynamic stability analysis has been conducted, which indicates the occurrence of instabilities due to flow choking effects in both forward and aft thrust bearings. A simple criterion for the onset of axial rotor oscillations has been established and subsequently verified in a micro-turbocharger experiment. The predicted frequencies of the unstable axial oscillations compare well with the experimental measurements.

Copyright © 2006 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Cross-sectional view of silicon-based MIT micro-devices; (a) micro-turbine-generator, (b) micro-turbopump, (c) micro-turbocharger.

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Figure 2

Geometric configuration of inherent-restrictor orifice hydrostatic thrust bearings (not to scale)

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Figure 3

Finite element solution of the normalized static pressure distribution on the thrust-bearing pad of a micro-turbocharger (not to scale)

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Figure 4

Experimental measurement and model predictions of forward thrust-bearing mass flow rate as a function of aft thrust-bearing pressure setting

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Figure 5

Variations of thrust-bearing natural frequency and mass flow rate with supply pressure for a micro-turbocharger

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Figure 6

Dynamic stability model for hydrostatic thrust bearing

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Figure 7

Thrust-bearing natural frequency versus rotor axial position for micro-electrostatic turbine generator

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Figure 8

Experimental demonstration of operating schedule for a micro-electrostatic turbine generator which achieved a maximum speed of 850,000rpm (93% design speed)

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Figure 9

Comparison of experimental results and analytical predictions for operating protocol on micro-turbopump. Inset shows hydrostatic analysis performed on liquid-gas interface at the intersection between the turbopump outlet and the forward thrust bearing

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Figure 10

Required forward thrust-bearing pressure settings for different pump-outlet pressures and different forward thrust-bearing clearances

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Figure 11

Comparison of experimental measurements and analytical predictions of the frequency of unstable axial oscillations for different thrust-bearing supply pressures. The uncertainties in pressure and frequency measurements are ±1.25psi and ±2Hz, respectively.




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