Gas film bearings enable the successful deployment of high-speed microturbomachinery. Foil bearings are in use; however, cost and lack of calibrated predictive tools prevent their widespread application. Other types of bearing configurations, simpler to manufacture and fully engineered, are favored by commercial turbomachinery manufacturers. Externally pressurized tilting pad bearings offer a sound solution for stable rotor support. This paper reports measurements of the rotordynamic response of a rigid rotor, 0.825kg and 28.6mm in diameter, supported on flexure pivot tilting pad hybrid gas bearings. The tests are performed for various imbalances, increasing supply pressures, and under load-on-pad (LOP) and load-between-pad (LBP) configurations. Presently, the initial condition of the test bearings shows sustained wear and dissimilar pad clearances after extensive testing reported earlier, (Zhu, X., and San Andrés, L., 2007, “Rotordynamic Performance of Flexure Pivot Hydrostatic Gas Bearings for Oil-Free Turbomachinery,” ASME J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power, 129, pp. 1020–1027). In the current measurements, there are no noticeable differences in rotor responses for both LOP and LBP configurations due to the light-weight rotor, i.e., small static load acting on each bearing. External pressurization into the bearings increases their direct stiffnesses and reduces their damping, while raising the system critical speeds with a notable reduction in modal damping ratios. The rotor supported on the worn bearings shows an 10% drop in first critical speeds and roughly similar modal damping than when tested with pristine bearings. Pressurization into the bearings leads to large times for rotor deceleration, thus demonstrating the little viscous drag typical of gas bearings. Rotor deceleration tests with manually controlled supply pressures eliminate the passage through critical speeds, thus paving a path for rotordynamic performance without large amplitude motions over extended regions of shaft speed. The rotordynamic analysis shows critical speeds and peak amplitudes of motion agreeing very well with the measurements. The synchronous rotor responses for increasing imbalances demonstrate the test system linearity. Superior stability and predictable performance of pressurized flexure pivot gas bearings can further their implementation in high performance oil-free microturbomachinery. More importantly, the measurements show the reliable performance of the worn bearings even when operating with enlarged and uneven clearances.

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