This work demonstrates that granular flows (i.e., macroscale, noncohesive spheres) entrained into an eccentrically converging gap can indeed actually exhibit lubrication behavior as prior models postulated. The physics of hydrodynamic lubrication is quite well understood and liquid lubricants perform well for conventional applications. Unfortunately, in certain cases such as high-speed and high-temperature environments, liquid lubricants break down making it impossible to establish a stable liquid film. Therefore, it has been previously proposed that granular media in sliding convergent interfaces can generate load carrying capacity, and thus, granular flow lubrication. It is a possible alternative lubrication mechanism that researchers have been exploring for extreme environments, or wheel-regolith traction, or for elucidating the spreadability of additive manufacturing materials. While the load carrying capacity of granular flows has been previously demonstrated, this work attempts to more directly uncover the hydrodynamic-like granular flow behavior in an experimental journal bearing configuration. An enlarged granular lubricated journal bearing (GLJB) setup has been developed and demonstrated. The setup was made transparent in order to visualize and video capture the granular collision activity at high resolution. In addition, a computational image processing program has been developed to process the resulting images and to noninvasively track the “lift” generated by granular flow during the journal bearing operation. The results of the lift caused by granular flow as a function of journal rotation rate are presented as well.

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