In order to efficiently utilize the abundant solar resources in Australia, the supercritical CO2 cycle is proposed as an alternative to conventional steam power cycles due to high thermal efficiency and compact system layout. To mature the technology readiness of the supercritical CO2 cycle, each part, including turbine, compressor, seals and bearings, needs to be evaluated and possibly re-designed under consideration of the high density working fluid. One key technology is the foil thrust bearing, which is an enabler for high speed operation and oil-free systems. Bearings are at the core of the turbomachinery system and have a significant influence on the performance of the whole system. In this paper, a quasi three-dimensional fluid-structure model, using computational fluid dynamics for the fluid phase is presented to study the elasto-hydrodynamic performance of foil thrust bearings. For the simulation of the gas flows within the thin gap, the computational fluid dynamics solver Eilmer is extended and a new solver is developed to simulate the bump and top foil within foil thrust bearings. These two solvers are linked using a coupling algorithm that maps pressure and deflection at the fluid structure interface. Results are presented for ambient CO2 conditions varying between 0.1 to 4.0MPa and 300 to 400K. It is found that the centrifugal inertia force can play a significant impact on the performance of foil thrust bearings with the highly dense CO2 and that the centrifugal inertia forces create unusual radial velocity profiles. In the ramp region of the foil thrust bearings, they generate an additional inflow close to the rotor inner edge, resulting in a higher peak pressure. Contrary in the flat region, the inertia force creates a rapid mass loss through the bearing outer edge, which reduces pressure in this region. This different flow field alters bearing performance compared to conventional air foil bearings. In addition, the effect of turbulence in load capacity and bearing torque is investigated. This study provides new insight into the flow physics within foil bearings operating with dense gases and for the selection of optimal operating condition to suit foil thrust bearings in supercritical CO2 cycles.

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