Fluid film bearings are often designed as a sacrificial component in rotating machines. The primary characteristics of a bearing material are compatibility, conformability and embeddability. These qualities reduce the likelihood of damage to the shaft during start-up and shutdown, or from upset conditions, misalignments or occasional ingestion of contaminants. A bearing material must also have adequate compressive strength, temperature capability, and corrosion and wear resistance for the given use.

To meet the widening range of application requirements and operating conditions for high-performing rotating equipment, advances in fluid film bearing materials give differing emphasis to these ideal characteristics, sometimes requiring trade-offs.

In the February 2017 issue of International Oil & Gas Engineer, Senior Development Engineer Sriram Venkatesan outlines differentiating characteristics of fluid film bearing material options, including tin-based alloys (babbitt), bronze, aluminium-tin, engineered polymers, ceramics (and cermets) and super-hard materials such as polycrystalline diamond (PCD).

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