Improvement of the load capacity of gas foil thrust bearings (GFTBs) is important to broadening their application in oil-free microturbomachinery (<250 kW) with high power density. Although GFTBs have the significant advantage of low friction without the use of lubrication systems compared to oil film thrust bearings, their inherently low load capacity has limited their application. The aim of the present study was to develop a design guideline for increasing the load capacity of GFTBs. The Reynolds equation for an isothermal isoviscous ideal gas was used to calculate the gas film pressure. To predict the ultimate load capacity of the GFTB, the pressure was averaged in the radial direction of the gas flow field used to deflect the foil structure. The load capacity, film pressure profile, and film thickness profile were predicted for a GFTB with an outer radius of 55 mm, inner radius of 30 mm, and eight foils each of arc length 45°. The predictions showed that the load capacity of the GFTB increased with increasing rotor speed and decreasing minimum film thickness, and was always lower than the analytically determined limit value for infinite rotor speed (obtained by simple algebraic equations). A parametric study in which the ramp extent (or inclined angle) was increased from 5° to 40°, and the ramp height from 0 to 0.320 mm, revealed that the GFTB had an optimal ramp extent of ∼22.5° and ramp height of ∼0.030 mm for maximum load capacity. Interestingly, the optimal values were also valid for a rigid-surface bearing. The predicted load capacities for a ramp extent of ∼22.5° and increasing ramp height from 0.030 to 0.320 mm were compared with experimental data obtained from a previous work. The predictions for a ramp height of 0.155 mm were in good agreement with the experimental data for all three test GFTBs with outer radii of 45, 50, and 55 mm, respectively. In addition, this paper shows that the predicted drag torque increases linearly with increasing rotor speed and decreasing minimum film thickness, and nonlinearly with decreasing ramp height. The drag torque significantly increased only for ramp heights below the optimal value. The predictions imply that the optimal ramp height improves the load capacity of the GFTB with little change in the drag torque.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.