The experimental investigation described here involves the highly accurate measurement of bearing clearances on the order of 0.25 μm in self-acting, pivoted, narrow-slider gas bearings. The experimental measurements are based on light interferometry using a variable-wavelength pulsed dye laser and a CW HeNe laser as monochromatic sources. The light interference in the gas bearing is obtained by flying the slider on a very precise, optically flat quartz disk through which the light beam is transmitted. The combined effect of high Knudsen numbers and surface irregularities on the flying height of narrow gas bearings is observed by varying the load on the bearing and the ambient molecular mean free path. The experimentally measured bearing clearances are compared quantitatively with theoretical predictions obtained by numerical solution of Reynolds differential equation for compressible fluids with slip boundary conditions.

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