Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

Document Type



Bearings are basic and essential components of nearly all machinery. They must be designed to work under different loads, speeds, and environments. Of all the performance parameters, load-carrying capacity (LCC) is often the most crucial design constraint. The objective of this research is to investigate different design methodologies that significantly improve the LCC of liquid-lubricated bearings. This goal can be achieved by either altering the surface texture or the bearing geometrical configuration. The methodology used here is based on mathematical topological/shape optimization algorithms. These methods can effectively improve the design performance while avoiding time-consuming trial-and-error design techniques. The first category of design studied is a micro-scale mechanical self-adaptive type which can provide “flexible surface texturing”. An accurate 3D model based on the classic plate theory and thin film lubrication is developed and a shape optimization analysis is carried out. Special attention is given to the cavitation phenomena and its numerical analysis. Also proposed is a numerical procedure to improve the convergence rate and stability of the Elrod cavitation algorithm. The idea of using self-adaptive mechanism to improve LCC is also adopted for thrust bearings. Novel flexible-pad thrust bearing designs that provide an optimum load-responsive mechanism are presented and an accurate multi-physics model that considers the coupled mechanism between the lubricant pressure and the pad deformation is developed. The optimum shapes for different bearing geometries are given and a detailed design guideline is provided for optimum performance. The second category of design studied focuses on bearing geometrical configuration. The optimum shape of finite width sectorial sliders, which is an open problem in the field, is determined for the first time in this research using topological optimization algorithms. Also three suboptimum solutions for special cases of 2D step profile, constant film thickness in the radial direction and constant film depth with quadrilateral shape are presented. These configurations are particularly attractive because they can be easily manufactured. The optimum shape of bearings with periodic surface grooves is also determined in this research. It is shown that the optimum shape is dependent to the aspect ratio of the grooves and it can change from elongated “heart-like” shapes to spiral-like shapes. A series of laboratory tests to authenticate the theoretical development is carried out. Results show very good agreement with the theory validating the accuracy of the model. Finally, the optimum geometry of spiral grooves that provide the highest LCC in liquid-lubricated parallel flat surface bearings is determined and a detailed design guideline is provided. The thermal effects are also considered and an approximate thermo-hydrodynamic model is developed for a range of seal geometries and operating conditions.



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Committee Chair

Khonsari, Michael M.