Bearings give boost to aircraft engines

Bearings give boost to aircraft engines

Aircraft engines could soon run more efficiently with new high-temperature magnetic bearings that support rotating shafts via a magnetic force and a feedback-control system. This allows for noncontact support of the rotating shaft and eliminates the frict

Texas A&M researchers claim to have developed noncontact bearings that eliminate friction and allow aircraft engines to run more efficiently.


Aircraft engines could soon run more efficiently with new high-temperature magnetic bearings that support rotating shafts via a magnetic force and a feedback-control system. This allows for noncontact support of the rotating shaft and eliminates the friction associated with conventional bearings.

In current aircraft engines, the bearings that support the rotating parts of the engine can fail at 400° F. Researchers at Texas A&M University in College Station, Tex., who worked with Ohio-based NASA Glenn Research Center and the University of Toledo, say their bearings operate at temperatures over 1,000° F.

"The bearings provide answers to a hurdle for both military and commercial aircraft engines," claims Alan Palazzolo, Texas A&M professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Vibration Control and Electromechanics Lab. He headed up a team of Texas A&M students: Jason Preuss and Randy Tucker, master's students in the mechanical engineering department, and Andrew Hunt, a senior civil engineering major.

"Our main contribution is the electromagnetic coils in the bearings that can withstand high amounts of heat, allowing aircraft engines to run at optimal levels," Hunt comments.

Other applications for the bearings include turbines that power land-based machinery, such as steel mills and petrochemical plants.

"There are also a lot of good commercial land-based uses for this technology," says Preuss. "It has the potential to increase efficiency as well as reduce maintenance costs for many types of turbomachinery."

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