Oil-free turbochargers (TCs) will increase power and efficiency of internal combustion (IC) engines, sparking ignition (SI) and compression ignition (CI), without engine oil lubricant feeding and scheduled maintenance. Implementing gas foil bearings (GFBs) into passenger vehicle TCs enables compact, light weight, oil-free systems along with accurate shaft motions, while engine oil lubricated TCs with floating ring bearings (FRBs) are prone to show severe sub synchronous motions over a wide range of shaft speeds due to instability. The paper presents static load-deflection tests of TC GFB structure, and rotordynamic performance measurements of an oil-free TC unit supported on test GFBs. Three metal shims inserted under the bump-strip layers and in contact with the bearing housing create a mechanical preload, which induces a hydrodynamic wedge in the assembly radial clearance to generate more film pressure for the shimmed GFB. Static load-deflection tests estimate the assembly radial clearances of the shimmed GFB smaller than that of the original GFB. Model predictions agree well with test data. The discrepancy between the model predictions and test data is attributed to fabrication inaccuracy of the top foil and bump strip layers. The rotordynamic TC test rig is driven by pressurized air. The test TC rotor, of 335 gram weight and 117 mm length, is coated using commercially available wear-resistant solid lubricant, Amorphous M, to prevent severe wears during start up and shutdown in the absence of an air film. Pressure sensors measure the driving turbine inlet air pressure and a control valve changes the air mass flow manually. A pairs of optical proximity probes positioned orthogonally at the compressor end record the lateral rotor motions. Rotordynamic test results show that the shimmed GFB attenuates significantly the large amplitude of subsynchronous whirl motions arising for the original GFBs. Mechanical preloads, which determine the assembly radial clearance of the shimmed GFB, causes the increase in the rotor-bearing system natural frequency.

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