Magnetic Bearings for Free-Piston Stirling Engines 929383
This paper assesses the feasibility and efficacy of applying magnetic bearings to free-piston Stirling-cycle power conversion machinery currently being developed for long-term space missions. The study was performed for a 50-kWe Reference Stirling Space Power Converter (RSSPC) which currently uses hydrostatic gas bearings to support the reciprocating displacer and power piston assemblies.
Active magnetic bearings of the attractive electromagnetic type are feasible for the RSSPC power piston. Magnetic support of the displacer assembly would require unacceptable changes to the design of the current RSSPC. However, magnetic suspension of both displacer and power piston is feasible for a relative-displacer version of the RSSPC.
Magnetic suspension of the RSSPC power piston can potentially increase overall efficiency by 0.5 to 1 % (0.1 to 0.3 efficiency points). Magnetic bearings will also overcome several operational concerns associated with hydrostatic gas bearing systems. These advantages, however, are accompanied by a 5 % increase in specific mass of the RSSPC.