New Way Air Bearings, a leading innovator in bearing technology, is proud to announce the award of two groundbreaking patents for porous gas bearings operating within a refrigerant environment. These patents, US patent 11619263B2 “Externally pressurized oil-free freon bearing” and US patent 11536316B2 “Externally pressurized porous gas bearings or seals operating on refrigerant,” mark significant milestones in New Way’s continuous efforts to enhance efficiencies in commercial and industrial cooling applications.
Gas bearings offer a remarkable advantage by reducing the parasitic shear losses inherent in hydrodynamic oil bearings commonly used in larger cooling machines. These shear losses, which can reach up to 3 percent, are almost entirely eliminated by utilizing gas bearings. Furthermore, the adoption of gas bearings enables additional efficiencies and cost savings by eliminating the need for oil pumps, filters, and cooling mechanisms. This removal of oil not only reduces risk by preventing oil leaks into the refrigerant, but it also enhances thermal transfer efficiency by eliminating oil insulation on the heat exchanger’s surfaces. The elimination of oil provides significant environmental benefits as well.
In recent years, equipment manufacturers have turned to magnetic bearing technology to mitigate oil-related risks and improve efficiencies. Some major builders have even acquired magnetic bearing companies to solidify their position in the oilless bearing market. While magnetic bearings enable hermetic operation and eliminate the need for high-speed seals, they come with their own challenges. Magnetic bearings are complex systems that are expensive to purchase and operate, require ongoing software updates, and are not easily serviceable by on-hand maintenance personnel. Moreover, process owners often find frustration in the “black box” characteristics of magnetic bearing technology.
New Way’s porous gas bearings, on the other hand, offer the efficient, hermetic, and oilless characteristics of magnetic bearings, all at a similar price point and with the same form, fit, and simplicity of traditional oil-based bearings. Nick Hackett, President at New Way, highlights the qualification of their gas bearing technology by two major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the refrigeration equipment sector for future product releases. These advancements represent a natural progression from oil to magnetic to gas bearings, as first announced by Dedert during the promotion of their new ABA atomizers. Additionally, gas bearings have the advantage of being retrofitted into existing oil-based bearing machines, providing a distinct edge over magnetic bearings that can only be designed into new systems.
Of particular significance to the refrigeration industry, the newly granted patents describe how the refrigerant itself can be utilized as the gas to generate the load carrying film in the bearing. This approach further simplifies operational complexity and reduces potential contamination issues. Drew Devitt, founder and CTO at New Way, who has over 40 patents related to porous bearing technology, expresses satisfaction with the comprehensive and succinct claims granted by the patents. He explains that these patents predate many of the developments in the field and will have a significant impact on the intellectual property landscape in the industrial and commercial cooling sectors.