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Porous Media Technology


Porous Media Technology

Broadly speaking there are two techniques for achieving the compensating effect in air bearings. Orifice compensation is traditionally the most widely used method, but porous surface compensation is rapidly emerging as the method of choice due to its many advantages and increasing availability.

In traditional orifice compensation the precisely sized orifices are strategically placed on the bearing and are often combined with grooves to distribute the pressurized air evenly across the bearing face. However, if the bearing face becomes scratched across a groove or near an orifice, the volume of air that escapes may be more than the orifice can supply, causing the bearing to crash even with normal air supply pressure. Rather than the small number of orifices of conventional air bearings, porous air bearings control the airflow across the entire bearing surface through millions of holes in the porous material (see figure). Because of this they are harder to clog and will still fly even after being severely scratched.

Even under normal operations, the air in an orifice air bearing loses pressure and creates pressure gradients in the air gap as it expands away from the orifice or groove. This is not an issue for porous air bearings where the air pressure remains almost uniform across the entire surface (see figure below).

Porous carbon has been found to be one of the best materials for this purpose, producing an ideal supply of uniform air pressure across the face of the bearing while automatically restricting and damping the air flow at the same time. The carbon surface also provides greater bearing protection if there is an air supply failure, and allows the bearings to be moved during air failure without damaging the support surface.