Magnetic Bearing Reduces Friction for Axial Loads

NASA and private industry are striving to develop all-electric aircraft to reduce emissions, cut dependence on fossil fuels, and eliminate excessive maintenance costs linked to lubrication system failures. Essential to this effort is the development of low-friction bearings.

As such, innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed a bearing with a novel stator and rotor architecture that uses magnetism to significantly reduce friction for an axial load. The unique configuration of the Axial Halbach Magnetic Bearing employs a non-contact support system to produce an axial repulsion force sufficient to levitate the rotor. What makes the technology exciting is that it does not require an active control system–such as computer circuitry, algorithms, or sensors–to maintain levitation. This represents a significant technological advance over traditional magnetic bearings.

A Halbach array consists of a series of permanent magnetic elements oriented geometrically such that each bar is at a right angle to the orientation of the adjacent bars, enhancing the magnetic field on one side and canceling it on the other. Halbach arrays are commonly used in magnetic levitation (maglev) for high speed trains and also for steering charged particles in subatomic accelerators. The bearing’s distinctive configuration makes it strong, stable, and efficient.

A basic Halbach array

This innovative new bearing can be applied to many commercial uses, including:

  • Electric motors
  • Computer disk drives
  • Clean room applications using pumps and compressors
  • Medical instrumentation systems

For more information, contact: Fuentek, LLC (919) 249-0327, nasa.grc@fuentek.com

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Posted by Fuentek Staff

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