Magnetorheological fluids (MRFs) are applicable for achieving semi-active control in smart bearings. For hydrodynamic bearings lubricated with MRF, changes of the viscosity induced by magnetic field lead to changes of the dynamic characteristics such as stiffness and damping properties, providing the controllability to the bearings in rotor applications. Two main defects of the MRF, however, may potentially limit the use of this kind of bearings. One is that the magnetic field-induced viscosity alteration capability decreases as the shear rate increases; the other is the extra friction introduced by iron particles in the MRF in external magnetic field. In this study, the floating ring bearing (FRB) and semi-floating ring bearing (sFRB) are introduced to replace common journal bearing for MRF-lubricated smart bearings. Performance enhancement is achieved using FRB and sFRB. The lubrication behavior of MRF is studied using the Herschel–Bulkley (HB) model that incorporates the yield stress and the shear-thinning effect, which are the two main features of the MRF under shearing. A kind of MRF is developed for lubrication application, and a test rig is setup to measure its shear rate–stress relationship and then to identify its HB model parameters. With the identified HB model, stiffness and damping characteristics of the MRF-lubricated FRB and sFRB are studied. Results show that, compared to MRF-lubricated common journal bearings, the MRF-lubricated FRB and sFRB both achieve better performances in damping enhancement, while limiting the journal friction to a relatively lower degree.

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