Reduced oil supply flow rates in fluid film bearings can cause cavitation, or lack of a fully developed hydrodynamic film layer, at the leading edge of the bearing pads. Reduced oil flow has the well-documented effects of higher bearing operating temperatures and decreased power losses and is commonly referred to as starvation. This study looks at the effects of oil supply flow rate on steady-state bearing performance and provides increased experimental data for comparison to computational predictions. Tests are conducted on a five-pad tilting-pad bearing positioned in a vintage, flooded housing with oil supply nozzles. Pad temperatures, sump temperature, journal operating position, and motor input power are measured at various operating speeds ranging from 2000 to 12,000 rpm and various oil supply flow rates. Predicted results are obtained from bearing modeling software based on thermoelastohydrodynamic (TEHD) lubrication theory. A starved flow model was previously developed as an improvement over the original flooded flow model to more accurately capture bearing behavior under reduced flow conditions. Experimental results are compared to both flow models. The starved bearing model predicts significantly higher journal operating positions than the flooded model and shows good correlation with the experimental data. Predicted pressure profiles from the starved bearing model show cavitation of the upper unloaded pads that increase in severity with increasing speed and decreasing oil supply flow rate. The progressive unloading of these top pads explains the rise in shaft centerline position and helps further validate the starvation model.

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