Oil-lubricated bearings are widely used in high speed rotating machines such as those used in the aerospace and automotive industries. However, with some applications including underwater machinery and environmentally friendly applications, water lubricated bearings have become increasingly used. Due to the different fluid properties between oil and water — namely viscosity — the use of water increases the Reynolds numbers drastically and, therefore, makes water-lubricated bearings prone to turbulence and fluid inertia effects. In other words, the linear approximation of the fluid film reaction forces due to the stiffness and damping parameters — as suggested in the traditional Reynolds equation — is not adequate and should be amended to include lubricant added mass. This is because water-lubricated bearings exhibit large lubricant inertia forces on the order of viscous forces. Additionally, stiffness and damping coefficients should be calculated with the turbulence effects included. The aim of this study was to investigate the methodology of modifying the traditional Reynolds equation to include lubricant inertia effects. This paper reviews the current status of research in the lubricant inertia of bearings and explores the development of methodologies to modify the Reynolds equation to include lubricant inertia in bearings.

The Reynolds equation is a partial differential equation governing the pressure distribution of thin viscous fluid films in lubrication theory. The thin film hypothesis is used to directly relate the bearing film thickness to the lubricant film pressure. Adding lubricant inertia to the Reynolds equation is vital to improving the accuracy of the bearing model and more specifically its film pressure which is essential to predicting load carrying capabilities. The film pressure relates the gradient of the velocity tensor through the Reynolds equation, and resulting shear stresses then allow the turbulent momentum equations to be written in terms of an eddy-viscosity value. An extended Reynolds equation should be developed which takes into account turbulence and both convective and temporal inertia. The most complete form of the temporal inertia effect model should be developed and applied to the turbulent regime, consisting of both primary and secondary temporal inertia terms. The convective inertia model follows Constantinescu’s approach. This analysis develops a lubricant inertia model applicable to water-lubricated bearings. The results of this study could aid in improving future designs and models of water-lubricated bearings.

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