Silicon based power micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) applications require high-speed microrotating machinery operating stably over a large range of operating conditions. The technical barriers to achieving stable high-speed operation with micro-gas-bearings are governed by (1) stringent fabrication tolerance requirements and manufacturing repeatability, (2) structural integrity of the silicon rotors, (3) rotordynamic coupling effects due to leakage flows, (4) bearing losses and power requirements, and (5) transcritical operation and whirl instability issues. To enable high-power density the micro-turbomachinery must be run at tip speeds comparable to conventional scale turbomachinery. The rotors of the micro-gas turbines are supported by hydrostatic gas journal and hydrostatic gas thrust bearings. Dictated by fabrication constraints the location of the gas journal bearings is at the outer periphery of the rotor. The high bearing surface speeds (target nearly ), the very low bearing aspect ratios , and the laminar flow regime in the bearing gap place these micro-bearing designs into unexplored regimes in the parameter space. A gas-bearing supported micro-air turbine was developed with the objectives of demonstrating repeatable, stable high-speed gas-bearing operation and verifying the previously developed micro-gas-bearing analytical models. The paper synthesizes and integrates the established micro-gas-bearing theories and insight gained from extensive experimental work. The characteristics of the new micro-air turbine include a four-chamber journal bearing feed system to introduce stiffness anisotropy, labyrinth seals to avoid rotordynamic coupling effects of leakage flows, a reinforced thrust bearing structural design, a redesigned turbine rotor to increase power, a symmetric feed system to avoid flow and force nonuniformity, and a new rotor micro-fabrication methodology for reduced rotor imbalance. A large number of test devices were successfully manufactured demonstrating repeatable bearing geometry. More specifically, three sets of devices with different journal bearing clearances were produced to investigate the dynamic behavior as a function of bearing geometry. Experiments were conducted to characterize the “as-fabricated” bearing geometry, the damping ratio, and the natural frequencies. Repeatable high-speed bearing operation was demonstrated using isotropic and anisotropic bearing settings reaching whirl-ratios between 20 and 40. A rotor speed of (equivalent to 370 m/s blade tip speed or a bearing DN number of ) was achieved demonstrating the feasibility of MEMS-based micro-scale rotating machinery and validating key aspects of the micro-gas-bearing theory.
High-Speed Operation of a Gas-Bearing Supported MEMS-Air Turbine
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Teo, C. J., Liu, L. X., Li, H. Q., Ho, L. C., Jacobson, S. A., Ehrich, F. F., Epstein, A. H., and Spakovszky, Z. S. (May 27, 2009). "High-Speed Operation of a Gas-Bearing Supported MEMS-Air Turbine." ASME. J. Tribol. July 2009; 131(3): 032001. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.3123343
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