Oil-free turbochargers require gas bearings in compact units of enhanced rotordynamic stability, mechanical efficiency, and improved reliability with reduced maintenance costs compared with oil-lubricated bearings. Implementation of gas bearings into automotive turbochargers requires careful thermal management with accurate measurements verifying model predictions. Foil bearings are customarily used in oil-free microturbomachinery because of their distinct advantages including tolerance to shaft misalignment and centrifugal/thermal growth, and large damping and load capacity compared with rigid surface gas bearings. Flexure pivot tilting pad bearings are widely used in high performance turbomachinery since they offer little or no cross-coupled stiffnesses with enhanced rotordynamic stability. The paper details the rotordynamic performance and temperature characteristics of two prototype oil-free turbochargers; one supported on foil journal and thrust bearings and the other one is supported on flexure pivot tilting pad journal bearings and foil thrust bearings of identical sizes (OD and ID) with the same aerodynamic components. The tests of the oil-free turbochargers, each consisting of a hollow rotor (∼0.4 kg and ∼23 mm in outer diameter at the bearing locations), are performed for various imbalances in NVH (i.e, cold air driven rotordynamics rig) and gas stand test facilities up to 130 krpm. No forced cooling air flow streams are supplied to the test bearings and rotor. The measurements demonstrate the stable performance of the rotor-gas bearing systems in an ambient NVH test cell with cold forced air into the turbine inlet. Posttest inspection of the test flexure pivot tilting pad bearings after the hot gas stand tests evidences seizure of the hottest bearing, thereby revealing a notable reduction in bearing clearance as the rotor temperature increases. The compliant flexure pivot tilting pad bearings offer a sound solution for stable rotor support only at an ambient temperature condition while demonstrating less tolerance for shaft growth, centrifugal and thermal, beyond its clearance. The current measurements give confidence in the present gas foil bearing technology for ready application into automotive turbochargers for passenger car and commercial vehicle applications with increased reliability.

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