Low-Friction Coatings for Air Bearings in Fuel Cell Air Compressors 2000-01-1536
In an effort to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, hybrid vehicles incorporating fuel cell systems are being developed by automotive manufacturers, their suppliers, federal agencies (specifically, the U.S. Department of Energy) and national laboratories. The fuel cell system will require an air management subsystem that includes a compressor/expander. Certain components in the compressor will require innovative lubrication technology in order to reduce parasitic energy losses and improve their reliability and durability. One such component is the air bearing for air turbocompressors designed and fabricated by Meruit, Inc. Argonne National Laboratory recently developed a carbon-based coating with low friction and wear attributes; this near-frictionless-carbon (NFC) coating is a potential candidate for use in turbocompressor air bearings. We presents here an evaluation of the Argonne coating for air compressor thrust bearings. With two parallel 440C stainless steel discs in unidirectional sliding contact, the NFC reduced the frictional force four times and the wear rate by more than two orders of magnitude. Wear mechanism on the uncoated surface involved oxidation and production of iron oxide debris. Wear occurred on the coated surfaces primarily by a polishing mechanism.