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Tribology and mechanical Components Branch
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Oil-Free Turbomachinery - Technology Overview
Research Objectives
Oil-Free Turbomachinery is high-speed rotating equipment operating without oil-lubricated rotor supports (bearings, dampers, and seals). Our vision is to realize revolutionary improvements in performance, efficiency, and reliability of turbomachinery propulsion systems.

The Oil-Free Turbomachinery Program builds on recent technology break-throughs in foil bearings, tribological coatings and anayltical modeling to enable high-speed and high-temperature oil-free turbomachinery. This technology provides an opportunity through new design freedoms that will enable revolutionary oil-free aeropropulsion engine and vehicle systems.
Applications
Current:
  • Aircraft air cycle machines
  • Turbocompressors
  • Turbogenerators (30 to 200 kW)
Emerging:
  • Turbochargers
Future:
  • Regional jet and helicopter engines
  • Brayton Cycle space power systems
  • Auxiliary power units
  • General aviation, BizJet, uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV), and missile engines
  • Revolutionary aeropropulsion engines
  • Reusable launch vehicle cryogenic turbomachinery
Benefits
  • Oil-free bearings eliminate oil system
    15% ENGINE WEIGHT REDUCTION
  • Maintenance- and oil-free bearings
    50% ENGINE MAINTENANCE COST REDUCTION
  • Unlimited shaft speed, no DN limit
    (Ball bearings limit engine speed)
    >20% POWER DENSITY INCREASE
  • NASA-patented PS304 coating
    1200 °F UNCOOLED BEARINGS
  • 50-passenger regional jet
    8% COST REDUCTION (DIRECT OPERATING COST)
foil bearing running at 1400 °F
 
Above: "Red hot" foil bearing running at 1400 °F
 

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Point of Contact
Dr. Christopher DellaCorte
Publications
View a list of published NASA reports
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Related Facilities
Learn more about our Oil-Free Turbomachinery Facilities
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Enabling Technologies
Finite element model of oil-free turbocharger rotor
Analytical Modeling

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Oil-free journal bearings
Foil Bearings

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Oil-free PM304 lubricant
Tribological Coatings

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Last Updated: April 21, 2009