Flooded lubrication of tilting-pad journal bearings provides safe and robust operation for many applications due to a completely filled gap at the leading edge of each pad. While flooded conditions can be ensured by restrictive seals on the lateral bearing ends for any conventional bearing design, direct lubrication by leading edge grooves (LEG) placed on the pads represents an alternative to produce completely filled gaps at the entrance to the convergent lubricant film. Moreover, this design is flexible to apply different axial sealing baffles in order to influence the thermal equilibrium within the entire bearing. A theoretical model is presented that describes the specific influences of LEG design on the operating characteristics. First, in opposite to conventional tilting-pad journal bearing designs the LEG is a self-contained lube oil pocket which is generally connected to an outer annular oil supply channel. Consequently, each leading edge groove can feature a specific speed and load dependent effective pocket pressure and flow rate. As a consequence of this and the fact that the LEG is part of the pad, it directly influences its tilting angle. Secondly, the thermal inlet mixing model must consider the specific flow conditions depending on the main flow direction within the film as well as the one between outer annular channel and pocket. The novel LEG model is integrated into a comprehensive bearing code validated earlier for other bearing designs. The code is based on an extended Reynolds equation and a three-dimensional energy equation. The entire theoretical model is validated with test data from high performance journal bearing test rig for a four tilting-pad bearing in load between pivot orientation. The bearing is described by the following specifications: 0.5 nominal preload, 60% offset, 70° pad arc angle, 120 mm inner diameter, 72 mm pad length and 1.7 per mille relative bearing clearance. Measurements are conducted for rotational speeds between 4000 and 15000 rpm and specific bearing loads between 0.5 and 2.5 MPa. Within the investigated operating range good agreement between theoretical and experimental data is achieved if all boundary conditions are accurately considered. Additionally, the impact of single simplifications within the model are studied and evaluated. Finally, the test data is compared to results from the same test bearing with modified lubricant oil supply conditions in order to identify specific properties of LEG design. Here, the leading groove edge elements are replaced by conventional spray-bars. It is shown that an assessment of the comparison depends on the definition of reference conditions as the bearings require different oil flow rates for nominal operation due to their design.

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