Purdue University Graduate School
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Experimental and Analytical Investigation of Ball Bearing Turbocharger Dynamics

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posted on 2022-12-01, 22:16 authored by Benjamin B ConleyBenjamin B Conley

The objectives of this investigation were to experimentally and numerically assess the performance of a ball bearing supported turbocharger (TC). Turbochargers are mechanical devices used to improve the efficiency of modern engines. Using ball bearings improves the TC efficiency, and represents one of many evolving high-speed applications for ball bearings.

The experimental objectives of this investigation were to design and develop a turbocharger test rig (TTR) to measure the shaft whirl of the rotating assembly and the axial and frictional loads experienced by the bearing cartridge. The TTR contains a ball bearing TC which was instrumented and operated under a variety of test conditions including rotational speeds up to 55,000 rpm. In order to measure the axial loads on the compressor and turbine sides, customized sensors were designed, fabricated and integrated into the TC housing. The anti-rotation (AR) pin, which normally prevents the bearing cartridge from rotating, was replaced with a custom-made sensor to measure frictional losses in the bearing cartridge.  These sensors were designed to minimally affect the operation of the TC. Proximity probes were initially installed on the compressor side and later on the turbine side to monitor shaft whirl using targets attached to the ends of the impellers. An assembly to record axial shaft motion with a proximity probe was also developed. Axial load and motion results indicated that the compressor side bears most of the axial load. As the backpressure or the speed of the TC increased the axial load also increased. Frictional measurements from the AR pin sensor demonstrated low power losses in the ball bearing cartridge. For certain shaft speed ranges, the data from the sensors illustrated periodic trends in response to subsynchronous whirl of the shaft.

The numerical modeling objectives of this investigation were to characterize the dynamics of the ball bearing supported TC. In this TC, the compressor, turbine and shaft are supported by a bearing cartridge composed of back-to-back angular contact ball bearings. The cartridge is supported by squeeze film dampers (SFDs) and is prevented from rotation by the AR pin. To achieve the objectives, first an equivalent bearing model was developed to investigate the bearing dynamics and whirl of the TC rotating assembly. The TC bearing cartridge was modeled with a single deep groove ball bearing (DGBB) using the discrete element method. The SFD which supports the bearing was modeled with a bilinear spring and damper. A DGBB was used because it can support axial load in both directions. This model was then extended to include a flexible shaft represented by tetrahedral finite elements and supported by an ACBB cartridge. After this model was used to reproduce the whirl from the test rig, the bearing internal geometry and SFD properties were adjusted to determine their effect on shaft whirl. Wear and damage criteria were also developed to evaluate the simulation results. The best simulation result was obtained with a small clearance in the bearing and with a stiffer SFD. The clearance was necessary as the shaft and bearing deform at high speeds, preloading the bearing.

The best simulation result was found to have reduced sliding and limited variation in contact force, which should lead to reduced friction and improved overall life. This study demonstrates the importance of taking the bearing system into account while designing a TC or other high speed mechanical system, as the bearing and SFD properties can have a significant impact on the system performance.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Farshid Sadeghi

Additional Committee Member 2

Charles M. Krousgrill

Additional Committee Member 3

Dimitrios Peroulis

Additional Committee Member 4

Jeffrey F. Rhoads