Oil-free turbochargers (TCs) will increase the power and efficiency of internal combustion engines, both sparking ignition and compression ignition, without engine oil lubricant feeding or scheduled maintenance. Using gas foil bearings (GFBs) in passenger vehicle TCs enables compact, lightweight, oil-free systems, along with accurate shaft motion. This paper presents extensive test measurements on GFBs for oil-free TCs, including static load-deflection measurements of test GFBs, rotordynamic performance measurements of a compressed air driven oil-free TC unit supported on test GFBs, and bench test measurements of the oil-free TC driven by a passenger vehicle diesel engine. Two configurations of GFBs, one original and the other modified with three shims, are subjected to a series of experimental tests. For the shimmed GFB, three metal shims are inserted under the bump-strip layers, in contact with the bearing housing. The installation of shims creates mechanical preloads that enhance a hydrodynamic wedge in the assembly radial clearance to generate more film pressure. Simple static load-deflection tests estimate the assembly radial clearance of the shimmed GFB, which is smaller than that of the original GFB. Model predictions agree well with test data. The discrepancy between the model predictions and test data is attributed to fabrication inaccuracy in the top foil and bump strip layers. Test GFBs are installed into a TC test rig driven by compressed air for rotordynamic performance measurements. The test TC rotor, 335 g in weight and 117 mm long, is coated with a commercially available, wear-resistant solid lubricant, Amorphous M, to prevent severe wear during start-up and shutdown in the absence of an air film. A pair of optical proximity probes positioned orthogonally at the compressor end record lateral rotor motions. Rotordynamic test results show that the shimmed GFB significantly diminishes the large amplitude of subsynchronous rotor motions arising in the unmodified GFB. Predicted synchronous rotor amplitudes and rigid body mode natural frequencies agree reasonably well with recorded test data. Finally, the oil-free TC is installed into a passenger vehicle diesel engine test bench. The TC rotor speed is controlled by the vehicle engine. Speed-up tests show dominant synchronous motion (1X) of the rotor. Whirl frequencies of the relatively small subsynchronous motions are associated with the rigid body natural mode of the TC rotor-GFB system as well as (forced) excitation from the four-cylinder diesel engine. The bench test measurements demonstrate a significant reduction in the amplitude of subsynchronous motions for the shimmed GFB, thus verifying the preliminary test results in the TC test rig driven by compressed air.

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