Gas foil bearings (GFBs) have clear advantages over oil-lubricated and rolling element bearings, by virtue of low power loss, oil-free operation in compact units, and rotordynamic stability at high speeds. However, because of the inherent low gas viscosity, GFBs have lower load capacity than the other bearings. In particular, accurate measurement of load capacity and dynamic characteristics of gas foil thrust bearings (GFTBs) is utmost important to widening their applications to high performance turbomachinery. In this study, a series of excitation tests were performed on a small oil-free turbomachinery with base excitations in the rotor axial direction to measure the dynamic load characteristics of a pair of six-pad, bump-type GFTBs, which support the thrust collar. An electromagnetic shaker provided dynamic sine sweep loads to the test bench (shaking table), which held rigidly the turbomachinery test rig for increasing excitation frequency from 10 Hz to 200 Hz. The magnitude of the shaker dynamic load, represented as an acceleration measured on the test rig, was increased up to 9 G (gravity). An eddy current sensor installed on the test rig housing measured the axial displacement (or vibrational amplitude) of the rotor thrust collar during the excitation tests. The axial acceleration of the rotor relative to the test rig was calculated using the measured displacement. A single degree-of-freedom base excitation model identified the frequency-dependent dynamic load capacity, stiffness, damping, and loss factor of the test GFTB for increasing shaker dynamic loads and increasing bearing clearances. The test results show that, for a constant shaker force and the test GFTB with a clearance of 155 μm, an increasing excitation frequency increases the dynamic load carried by the test GFTB, i.e., bearing reaction force, until a certain value of the frequency where it jumps down suddenly because of the influence from Duffing’s vibrations of the rotor. The bearing stiffness increases and the damping decreases dramatically as the excitation frequency increases. Generally, the bearing loss factor ranges from 0.5 to 1.5 independent of the frequency. As the shaker force increases, the bearing dynamic load, stiffness, damping, and loss factor increase depending on the excitation frequency. Interestingly, the agreements between the measured GFTB dynamic load versus the thrust runner displacement, the measured GFTB static load versus the structural deflection, and the predicted static load versus the thrust runner displacement are remarkable. Further tests with increasing GFTB clearances of 155, 180, 205, and 225 μm revealed that the vibrational amplitude increases and the jump-down frequency decreases with increasing clearances. The bearing load increases, but the bearing stiffness, damping, and loss factor decrease slightly as the clearance increases. The test results after a modification of the GFTB by rotating one side bearing plate by 30° relative to the other side bearing plate revealed insignificant changes in the dynamic characteristics. The present dynamic performance measurements provide a useful database of GFTBs for use in microturbomachinery.

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