Bearing options, including design and testing, for direct drive linear generators in wave energy converters
The key focus of this research was to investigate the bearing options most suited to operation in a novel direct drive linear generator. This was done through bearing comparisons, modelling and testing. It is fundamental that the linear generator is designed to suit the marine environment. Key design constraints include reliability, survivability, maintenance intervals and cost. Resilient mechanical structural components, such as bearings, will prolong the time a device can operate without maintenance hence prolonging the operating period. Effective lifespan predictions for bearings will feed into the structural design of the generator which forms part of an overall objective to combine each generator design stage into one integrated design process. This promises to provide a cost effective, light weight generator design. This thesis covers the initial investigations into effective, long life and low-wear bearings to meet the operating demands of WEC. It includes an assessment of conventional bearing technology, designs of water-fed hydrostatic bearings and testing of novel polymer bearings. The development of an experimental test rig from a prototype linear generator is described. The rig was built in order to validate and fully explore the potential of self-lubricating, submersible polymer bearings with the ultimate aim of identifying wear constants and frictional properties of the bearings in the low-speed, mid to high-load, oscillating operation of a WEC in order to more accurately predict a bearing lifespan. The outcome of this research served to underpin the need for the design of application specific bearing systems to be based on empirically determined data and observations from test data taken from application specific tests. For inclusion in the design of these linear generators, sizing a bearing requires knowledge of the electrical loading in addition to the expected operating conditions of a WEC. Choosing bearing materials and hence lubricant regimes is dependant on the thermal operating characteristics. Then bearing knowledge in terms of size, load capacity and lifespan can be put directly into the structural model. This iterative process of design can then be merged into a fully integrated generator design tool hence this research was part of the development of an integrated design tool for direct drive generators.
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