Gas film bearings offer unique advantages enabling successful deployment of high-speed micro-turbomachinery (< 0.4 MW). Current applications encompass micro power generators, air cycle machines and turbo expanders. Mechanically complex gas foil bearings are in use; however, their excessive cost and lack of calibrated predictive tools deter their application to mass-produced systems. The present investigation provides experimental results for the rotordynamic performance of a small rotor supported on simple and inexpensive hybrid gas bearings with static and dynamic force characteristics desirable in high-speed turbomachinery. These characteristics are adequate load support, stiffness and damping coefficients, low friction and wear during rotor startup and shutdown, and most importantly, enhanced rotordynamic stability. The test results evidence the paramount effect of feed pressure on early rotor lift off and substantially higher threshold speeds of rotordynamic instability. Higher supply pressures also determine larger bearing direct stiffnesses, and thus bring an increase in the rotor-bearing system critical speed albeit with a reduction in damping ratio.

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