Experimental Response of a Rotor Supported on Rayleigh Step Gas Bearings Conference Paper uri icon


  • Reliable gas bearings will enable the rapid deployment of high speed oil-free micro-turbomachinery. This paper presents analysis and experiments of the dynamic performance of a small rotor supported on Rayleigh step gas bearings. Comprehensive tests demonstrate that Rayleigh step hybrid gas bearings exhibit adequate stiffness and damping capability in a narrow range of shaft speeds, up to ∼ 20 krpm. Rotor coast down responses were performed with two test bearing sets with nominal radial clearance of 25 μm and 38 μm A near-frictionless carbon (NFC) coating was applied on the rotor to reduce friction at liftoff and touchdown. However, the rotor could not lift easily and severe rubbing occurred at shaft speeds below ∼ 4,000 rpm. The tests show that the supply pressure raises the rotor critical speed and decreases the system damping ratio, while only affecting slightly the rotor-bearing system onset speed of instability. Whirl frequencies are nearly fixed at the system natural frequency (∼ 120 Hz) with subsynchronous amplitude motions of very large magnitude that prevented rotor operation above ∼ 20 krpm. The geometry of the Rayleigh steps distributed on the rotor surface generates a time varying pressure field, resulting in a sizable 4X super synchronous component of bearing transmitted load. Predictions show the synchronous stiffness and damping coefficients decrease with shaft speed. Predicted threshold speeds of instability are much lower than measured values due to the analytical model limitations assuming a grooved stator. The predicted synchronous responses to imbalance correlate well with the measurements. The Rayleigh step gas bearings are the most unreliable rigid bearing configuration tested to date. Copyright © 2005 by ASME.

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhu, X., & San Andrés, L.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • January 2005