Air foil bearings are used in turbomachinery applications with high speeds and in oil-free environments. Their numerical analysis has to account for the multiphysicality of the problem. This work features a detailed thermo-elasto-hydrodynamic model of an air foil thrust bearing with bump-type foil-structure. The bearing geometry is designed to produce a high load capacity while maintaining thermally stable conditions. The presented model considers foil deformations using a Reissner-Mindlin-type shell theory. Dry friction (stick-slip approach) between the top foil, the bump foil and the base plate is taken into account in the model. Reynolds equation from lubrication theory is used to study the hydrodynamic behavior of the air film. A thermal model of the lubricating gap, the foil sandwich and the rotor disk including heat fluxes into the rotor and the periphery as well as a cooling flow on the backside of the rotor disk are presented. Elastic deformations of the rotor disk due to centrifugal effects are calculated; deformations caused by temperature gradients are investigated as well. In air foil thrust bearings, very high temperatures are often observed and a forced cooling flow through the foil sandwich has to be applied. Using a cooling flow by applying a pressure difference between the inner and outer radius of the thrust bearing has several drawbacks: the additional cooling flow reduces the overall efficiency of the machine and requires additional constructive measures. In this work, a passive cooling concept is analyzed, where the typical steel foils are replaced with other materials, which have a significantly higher thermal conductivity. The simulation results show that the bearing temperatures can be reduced markedly (up to 70°C in the considered test case) by this approach.

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